WHAT happens when the community care of someone with a disability clashes with the legitimate expectations of those around that person to live without undue disruption?
That’s the issue at the heart of a situation in Boolaroo, where a group of residents – including one of many decades – have reluctantly gone public with their concerns over the care of a 13-year-old girl with autism, a severe intellectual disability and epilepsy, who moved into their street at the start of the year.
The morning after the Newcastle Herald contacted Allambi Care about the situation, the girl was moved somewhere else. Given that Allambi had already confirmed she was moved to Boolaroo after complaints at her previous address in the Belmont area, it seems hardly fair to the girl or her successive neighbours.
As it happens, however, there is no real alternative to such arrangements, given the principles governing disability services in NSW. As the Herald has extensively reported, the state government’s decision to privatise its disability services as part of the NDIS – together with its pledge to shut the Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra residential centres – means that all care is destined to take place in residential settings.
The theoretical justification involves the right of all people with disability to have a place in the community. Nobody is arguing with this as a principle, and there is no doubt that many people being looked after by the NDIS are living more meaningful lives thanks to a 2014 increase in the Medicare levy, which is raising an extra $4 billion a year for disability services. But when legitimate questions are raised, there is a tendency to shoot the messenger rather than to acknowledge the concerns.
When the Herald reported in December 2015 on disruptions from a group home in Waratah, a complaint was made to the Australian Press Council that we were “inciting prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities”.
In dismissing the complaint, the press council acknowledged “the significant public interest in an article concerning vulnerable people in care”. The same sort of concerns motivate the Herald to report on the situation at Boolaroo, and to look at the practice, and not just the theory behind the revolution in disability services now under way in NSW.