Mother tells of disability care trend

A WOMAN who has three children with disability has told a Senate inquiry it should keep institutions open and take at least two weeks to assess patients under a national insurance scheme.

Stockton Hospital Welfare Association deputy president Wendy Cuneo was among 20 people and community groups who gave evidence before an inquiry yesterday in Newcastle.

The Senate inquiry held a hearing in the city because the Hunter is to be a launch site later this year for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Ms Cuneo said she had a son at the Stockton Centre, a daughter in a group home and another son who had overcome his disability at home.

She said while her daughter’s group home, housing five people, was ‘‘beautiful’’ it cost $6million to build.

She said her son had more freedom than ever at the Stockton centre, and she was sick of ‘‘do-gooders’’ trying to close it down.

She said her son was a virtual prisoner when she had cared for him at home.

Disability care trends in the past 30 years have shifted away from institutions in favour of group homes.

‘‘They have more freedom there [at Stockton] than they do in a group home,’’ Ms Cuneo said.

‘‘Some group homes are mini-institutions and incredibly isolating.’’

Ms Cuneo spoke on behalf of people with complex disabilities, saying their needs could not be understood based on one meeting and patients should spend two weeks in respite care to be assessed under the scheme.

‘‘Many disabilities have no real diagnosis,’’ she said.

Other speakers included representatives from multiple sclerosis, motor neurone and cystic fibrosis organisations, and Paraquad.

Paraquad community services manager Tonina Harvey said they were concerned that if patients used the insurance scheme to directly self-employ carers, those carers would be left vulnerable to exploitation of their rights as workers.

She also raised concerns about waiting times and inappropriate care in the aged care sector.

Committee members were keen to find out whether there had been enough information given to Hunter residents about the scheme, to which respondents frequently said it had been insufficient.

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