Minister disputes NDIS link

RESIDENTS of the Stockton Centre face its closure in five years but the state government insists the changes are not because of the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Nanjing Night Net

No one would be forced to leave large residential centres ‘‘because of the NDIS’’, Minister for Ageing John Ajaka said yesterday, following union criticisms it was being used as cover to privatise services.

A policy, begun under Labor, of redeveloping large residential centres was instead behind the latest uncertainty, he said.

‘‘The redevelopment of the Stockton Centre site has been an ongoing priority for the NSW government and planning has been under way well before our commitment to the NDIS was made,’’ Mr Ajaka said.

Residents could choose to stay until 2018 when the redevelopment would occur or move to another residential centre from next year.

The government would not commit yesterday to some form of accommodation being available onsite after the redevelopment, saying only that future accommodation at Stockton would be canvassed at an information session today.

The redevelopment of Stockton, Tomaree and Kanangra was mentioned in the Ageing, Disability and Home Care agency 2011-12 annual report.

However, the Coalition recommitted soon after winning the 2011 election to keeping Stockton open – noting it needed upgrading.

Labor’s disability services spokeswoman, Barbara Perry, said Stockton’s redevelopment was part of an agreement that had bipartisan support from Labor.

‘‘However, there is understandably a lot of anxiety for many people with disabilities and their families about how the transition to [the NDIS] will play out,’’ she said. ‘‘Now is the time for very clear communication and dialogue from the NSW government about how choice and quality of services will be improved under the transition.’’

But Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper said some residents may be more socially isolated in a ‘‘pure community setting’’.

‘‘If there’s a problem with large centres like Stockton, then that’s because they’ve been run down by successive governments,’’ Mr Piper said.

Legislation enabling the transfer of government assets and staff on existing wages and conditions to the non-government sector for the NDIS is before State Parliament.

The Stockton Centre

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‘Staff morale, trust levels low’ over disability centre changes

By IAN KIRKWOOD

THE Public Service Association held a delegates’ meeting in Newcastle yesterday afternoon to discuss a strategy to respond to the changes proposed for the Stockton Centre and other residential homes.

Union branch organiser Paul James said that regardless of what “spin” the government put on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and its impact on state-run facilities, the legislation tied the government into privatising services.

Mr James said staff morale was bad and trust levels were low because of the way both the state and federal governments had failed to spell out the enormity of the changes when announcing the NDIS late last year.

He said staff with experience in both government-run and not-for-profit disability services were adamant that standards were higher in the government sector. Staff feared for the people they cared for and themselves, because whatever work guarantees the government was talking about would be for five years at the most.

“And because the Hunter is the first roll-out, our people are the guinea pigs,” Mr James said.

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