Many in fear in disability group homes

Megan Neil
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DISABILITY

Advocate Kevin Stone (L) say many people in disability group homes live in fear of violence

An assault victim who sleeps in the hallway to avoid a violent housemate is among the many people living in fear in disability group homes, with little say and few options.

Other Victorians with disabilities are "in crisis" and unable to find suitable housing, with some forced to remain in hospitals and jails, the disability royal commission has been told.

Advocate Kevin Stone said many people in group homes fear violence from other residents or staff, and are afraid of retribution if they speak up.

"They, many times, in many situations, live in fear," the CEO of the Victorian Advocacy League for Individuals with Disability said on Wednesday.

"Most of those incidents of client-to-client abuse are a direct result of basically herding people together without choice, without compatibility, in compressed situations."

One of VALID's recent cases involved a man who was afraid to go to the toilet because of the violence in his group home.

"One client in a group home has been sleeping on the floor in the hallway because she is no longer able to access her bedroom," Mr Stone told the Melbourne hearing.

"Another client assaulted her and the service provider has been unable to find suitable alternative accommodation for either client, leading to one client sleeping in the hallway to avoid contact with a violent resident."

Mr Stone said in one case a resident ended up in hospital with a spinal fracture after allegedly being assaulted by a staff member, while another was punched in the face by an employee.

He said faeces was smeared over the bathroom walls in one group home, which also had no crockery.

Residents have not been involved in decisions about filling vacancies in group homes that typically house four-to-six people with disabilities, with the service providers making decisions about the compatibility of tenants.

Senior Victorian public servant Janine Toomey said changes would be considered to give residents and their families a role in the decisions.

"I support the right of the tenants in this situation to have control of who they live with and have those choices," said Ms Toomey, the disability executive director in the Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Ms Toomey said there were very few places available at the moment.

"What we're seeing is more and more people in Victoria in crisis because they don't have somewhere to actually to move out of a family home.

"So we're seeing people longer term in hospital, we've got examples of people staying longer in the justice system."

Ms Toomey said there were also concerns that individuals with the most complex needs will not be prioritised or selected above others.