THE state government has confirmed plans for a full privatisation of disability care services – including dozens of government-owned group homes – in the Hunter region.
The revelation follows yesterday’s Newcastle Herald articles outlining plans to shut the Stockton Centre by 2018, when the National Disability Insurance Scheme is due to be fully implemented.
Despite statements by Newcastle MP Tim Owen that Stockton would not close ‘‘because of the NDIS’’, several government officials have confirmed that the closure is timed for 2018.
The Public Service Association, which blew the whistle on the changes, says the public and disability sector alike are yet to fully understand the full implications of the NDIS.
PSA organiser Paul James said at least 40 or 50 group homes in the Hunter, each with between four and a dozen or so staff members, would be privatised under the NDIS.
Asked about this, a spokesman for the Minister for Disability Services, John Ajaka, said: ‘‘Yes, group homes will eventually [by 2018] be managed within the private sector.’’
Mr Ajaka said yesterday that the ‘‘redevelopment’’ of large residential centres such as Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra at Morisset was ‘‘a separate issue to the roll-out of the NDIS’’.
But Mr James said this was a meaningless fig leaf, because the government had contracted to get out of disability services under the NDIS, meaning the decision was locked in.
‘‘As a union official, it is unpopular to say this but no one wants to criticise the NDIS because it was a Labor policy but in NSW it means the privatisation of disability services,’’ Mr James said.
Some parents of residents at the Stockton Centre contacted the Herald yesterday to say that ‘‘do-gooders’’ had no idea how difficult some people with disabilities were to manage.
Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery also called on the government to keep Stockton open.
Meg Panov, of Redhead, said politicians taken through Stockton were only ever shown ‘‘the nice places’’.
‘‘They don’t take them to the really hard wards, where people are permanently bed-ridden, having to be turned by ropes from pulleys on the roof,’’ Mrs Panov said.
‘‘My son was taken out of community care by two policemen in a paddy wagon 22years ago because they couldn’t handle him and the only place he could go was Stockton.
She believes community agencies will not be able to handle some clients.
Wendy Cuneo, whose son David was featured in yesterday’s Herald, said the previous disability minister, Andrew Constance, had been ‘‘very understanding’’.