Posted on 23. Oct, 2013 in Clayton Update

A recent report from the Office of the Public Advocate shows that the Napthine Government is failing in its responsibility to care for the most vulnerable people in the state.

The Community Visitors Annual Report tabled in State Parliament details the issues that Office of the Public Advocate community visitors have encountered across the state in the last financial year.

Member for Clayton, Hong Lim said people with a mental illness or a disability in the Southern Metropolitan area were being let down by a government that wasn’t focusing on helping the people who need it most in our community.

“This report shows government underfunding was resulting in services being under significant pressure and not meeting demand in a number of areas,” Mr Lim said.

‘One of the significant challenges for the Community Visitors Program this year has been the DHS reorganisation from eight regions into four divisions managing 17 area offices. The simultaneous reduction in department staff by 500 positions compounded the situation.’ (Colleen Pearce, Public Advocate and Chairperson of the Boards, p6)

“The Napthine Government has gutted the Department of Humans Services – this is clearly having an effect on those charged with helping the most vulnerable,” he said.

“The Community Visitors annual report is evidence that these cuts to front-line services have created heartache for the thousands of Victorians who rely on these services.

“The report has a series of heart-rending stories demonstrating what happens when these services fail, such as an acute mentally ill patient being shackled to a bed for 24 hours, and reports of disability service providers with staff not properly trained to deal with clients.”

The report shows that abuse, neglect and assaults in care have increased again, with a total of 209 cases reported across the state in residential, disability and mental health settings, up from 183 cases the previous year.

The report stated that in the Southern Metropolitan Region:

• The demand for respite beds in this region is far outstripping supply, causing long waits
• One respite provider with five beds for children is ‘blocked’ by long term clients, and in consequence has been forced to place other children needing emergency respite in adult facilities
• The building facilities are often inappropriate for housing people with disabilities and are causing both mental health problems as well as issues with personal safety
• The vacancy management system is consequently in crisis, providers are frequently relying on casual staff
• Clients often have no other choice but to rely on taxi’s for transport, which is eating up scarce disability support pension funds
• At Dandenong Hospital a female patient was dragged by the ankles by a nurse and sustained carpet burns across her shoulders
• Hand sanitiser machines at the Alfred Hospital were withdrawn after a patient was found drinking the liquid gel
• The demand for mental health beds in this region has resulted in hospitals setting discharge quotas. This requirement resulted in some adult acute patients being relocated into spare beds in the aged persons’ acute inpatient unit
• There is long-term shortage of accommodation for people with mental illness

“The Office of the Public Advocate has made a clear case in this report, that too many people are being let down by a community services system that is being chronically underfunded by the Napthine Government,” he said.

“There is a shortage of mental health beds, there is a shortage of respite facilities, there is a shortage of properly trained disability services staff and Mr Napthine isn’t doing enough to address it.

“This government needs to stop cutting funding from these vital community services. These providers and the vulnerable people they support need more support, not less.”

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