Parents’ privatisation fears

disabled son’s future in limbo
disabled son’s future in limbo

Jo and Terry Donnellan’s 42-year-old son Edward has lived in Disability Service Commission (DSC) accommodation in Joondanna and Nollamara for 21 years.

However, under a State Government scheme to privatise accommodation, Mrs Donnellan said DSC may no longer house or care for Edward.

The Government last year announced that in coming years private providers would run most DSC accommodation services across the state.

DSC provides 17 per cent of WA’s accommodation services for people with disabilities; 83 per cent is provided by non-government organisations.

Mrs Donnellan, of Leederville, said she did not understand why it was necessary to privatise the services that had catered for Edward so well.

‘My biggest fear is that they will transfer him to the private sector because I am 110 per cent certain it won’t work,’ she said.

‘It might be fine for some people with disability but not for those with special needs.

‘The slightest change triggers Edward and he can become volatile ” he is used to the staff who care for him and the people whom he lives with, they’re like family.’

Disability Services minister Helen Morton said the change was in line with the principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Mrs Donnellan said the worst aspect of the scheme was the ‘tiny amount’ of information they were given.

‘We got the first letter from the DSC director general Rob Chalmers in October, which told us next to nothing,’ she said.

In that letter, Mr Chalmers said he knew the same DSC staff members supported some individuals for a long period and that the department was committed to a ‘smooth transition’ of services.

‘Individuals and their families or carer will be involved in the decision making process to select non-government service providers,’ the letter said.

Mrs Donnellan said the letter said what would be happening and they had no choice in the matter.

‘How are we supposed to choose a provider?’ she said.

‘After the letter we went into shock ” we denied it and thought ‘this can’t be happening’.

‘There is a lot of anxiety and a feeling of being powerless.

‘We don’t know what to do because the care Edward is getting is the best it’s ever been and we don’t want that to change.

‘But with the uncertainty staff are looking around and thinking ‘should I jump ship now’ because 500 DSC hands-on positions will go.’

Ms Morton said there would be no immediate impact on current staff because the absolute numbers of residents and staff affected would not be finalised until consultation with families, carers and staff was complete.

‘The Government will continue to provide funding to support accommodation for people with disability, just as it does now. No-one who is now receiving services from the DSC will be disadvantaged or have their services cut,’ she said.

Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association branch secretary Toni Walkington said the government should run these services because all operations and services could be audited and scrutinised more closely than they would be in the private sector.

She said private organisations could hide behind ‘commercial-in-confidence’ agreements that the public could not question.