New operators for privatised disability group homes

QUICK RESPONSE: Days after a Public Service Association rally in favour of state-run disability services, the NSW government has announced preferred tenderers to run the group homes it is transferring to the private sector.
QUICK RESPONSE: Days after a Public Service Association rally in favour of state-run disability services, the NSW government has announced preferred tenderers to run the group homes it is transferring to the private sector.

A CONSORTIUM of three disability groups is set to take over at least 25 Hunter Region disability group homes after the NSW government said it was the only bidder up to “the high standard” required.

The government confirmed on Monday that Hunter Valley Disability Services Ltd – a new organisation formed by Ability Options, Connectability Australia and Finding Yellow – had been “shortlisted” to operate the Hunter’s state-run disability group homes. 

The announcement follows last week’s Public Service Association strike and Sydney CBD protest against the privatisation of state disability services as part of the NDIS.

News of the move came from emails and texts alerting group home residents and staff to forums in Maitland on March 9 and Newcastle on March 10 to meet representatives of Hunter Valley Disability Services.

Similar notices have gone out for another 22 forums across NSW starting this week. 

Although the government confirmed Hunter Valley Disability Services was the sole “shortlisted provider” for the Hunter Region, a spokesperson for one of its member organisations said they were unaware – until the Newcastle Herald contacted them – that they were the only bidder in the running.

Connectability Australia’s Hamilton-based chief executive, David Carey, declined to comment formally until the government announced the results of the tender process. The Herald understands that while Hunter Valley Disability Services will operate the group homes, the properties themselves would be transferred to a separate, but as yet unnamed community housing organisation, that was also part of the bid.

The Public Service Association’s assistant general secretary Troy Wright said the government’s “consultations” were a sham.

“They are telling families they will be consulted before a final decision is made, but in the Hunter’s case the residents and their families are being told who the operator will be,” Mr Wright said.

“It’s a short-list of one, which is no short-list.”

The union’s Hunter organiser, Paul James, said the NDIS was formulated on “principles of choice” but the NSW privatisation was forcing people into decisions they did not want to take.

A government spokesperson said that even if only one service provider was shortlisted, a final decision would not be made until after the forums. 

Disability Services Minister Ray Williams will join Mr Carey and financial consultant Martin Halloran to speak on “the business of the NDIS in the Hunter” at Newcastle Business Club on Tuesday, March 14.