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Govt disability housing consultation "too little too late"

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The State Government has begun consulting with residents and their families in supported community accommodation about its plan to transition the disability service to the private sector – two weeks after disability workers were first informed of the decision.

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In a statement to InDaily, Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink said the Government started calling clients and their families about its intention to move the service to the non-government sector yesterday afternoon.

However, she stressed that there would be no immediate changes for residents and staff of the serivces.

InDaily reported yesterday that the Public Service Association and Greens MLC Tammy Franks were concerned that about 500 people with disabilities and 1400 disability workers were left in uncertainty about the future of public housing, after a Department email sent on June 12 informed staff of the Government’s intentions to transition the service to the private sector.

The Liberal Party entered the March election promising to transition all disability services – including supported community accommodation – to the non-government sector in line with the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

But Franks and the PSA argued that the one-line statement in the Liberal Party’s “First 100 days” election platform was not sufficient notice.

Lensink today defended the Government’s delay in consulting with residents and their families, saying it wanted to have an agreed set of principles before it started the process.

She said the Government also needed to consider how the potential changes might impact clients and their employees.

“Consultation began as soon as the Government had an agreed direction coming out of Cabinet on Monday,” she said in a statement to InDaily.

“The intention that the State Government would eventually withdraw from the delivery of supported accommodation services was made clear in the lead up to the state election.”

But today Franks argued the move was “too little too late” from the Government.

“It’s like having a cart before the horse. The Liberals made this promise in opposition and telling staff before the residents is completely not appropriate,” she said.

Franks said it was only a matter of time before South Australia could be faced with a situation similar to a case reported in Victoria yesterday, in which a man with autism was sentenced to prison because there was not enough public housing available to accommodate him.

“This (supported community accommodation) is for the most difficult cases – if we see similar stories of people with complex needs ending up in the justice system then that really would speak volumes.”

Lensink said the decision to scrap a government corporation set up by the former Labor Government to ensure supported community accommodation remained a public entity under the NDIS would not impact clients or employees.

“Although a public corporation had been set up by the previous government, it was still in the establishment phase and did not yet have any operational control, so deciding not to proceed with it has had no direct impact on clients or employees,” she said.

“I would like to stress there will be no immediate changes for residents or staff – it is services as usual for now.”

Lensink said transitioning the service to the NDIS would provide greater choice and autonomy for people with disabilities to choose their service providers.

But Franks said it was important for people to still have the choice to stay in the public system.

Government consultation on the changes to Supported Community Accommodation will occur through the remainder of this year, with the transitioning of services to the private sector expected to start early next year.

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