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SA Housing Authority Disadvantages the Most Impoverished and Vulnerable

NDIS participants, allied health professionals and service providers are calling for greater scrutiny over the decision-making and administrative affairs of SA Housing Authority after vulnerable clients have been left without safe access to their homes.

NDIS Specialist Support Coordinator and Forensic Social Worker, Matilda Bawden, reveals countless phone calls, emails and personal visits to SA Housing Authority offices routinely go without any responses or follow up when NDIS participants formally request home modifications or complain to the authority.

“This is normal and standard operating practice“, Ms Bawden said. “Even a dozen emails to local MP’s go without follow up or response.”

Among other examples, Ms Bawden cites several of her clients being left in dangerous situations whilst trapped in their own homes.

“SAHA’s utter belligerence and callous indifference to the plight of people with disabilities is staggering” Ms Bawden said, citing several examples:

  1. After most of 2 years, a wheelchair-bound elderly gentleman finally got his doors widened, but when SAHA modified the front door, it failed to make the door electronic to enable the gentleman to open it by himself, so he now remains trapped in the house until a carer is on duty (usually only 3-4 hrs daily). The gentleman is unable to open or close the front door and, in the event of a fire or other emergency, he has no way of escaping the unit. This is not an NDIS issue its squarely a SAHA safety and access issue, however SAHA is refusing to make the modification!

  2. A woman who suffers frequent medical emergencies who had lost keys to her home is similarly trapped, with SAHA refusing to respond to the need by her many agency carers for locks to be rekeyed to a single key in order to gain quick, safe and easy access. The woman has been trapped without being able to get carers into her home.

  3. A blind woman who uses portable air conditioners and pedestal fans during extreme heat conditions has had ceiling fans funded by NDIA, but SAHA has refused to install them; leaving her with a trip hazard to navigate, with extension cords cutting across floors in main traffic areas of the house. SAHA advised the woman that she should consider moving to another house with ceiling fans, despite the fact that she has lived in the house for over 20 years and lives directly opposite her twin sister who helps her when needed.

  4. A woman with Acquired Brain Injury who suffers frequent seizures during extreme heat conditions has had her application for the installation of fans and air conditioner ignored, despite NDIS funding the goods, with full recommendations from an Occupational Therapist.

  5. In one instance, SAHA has refused to communicate with the tenant’s NDIS Support Coordinator (despite the tenant’s written authority and consent) unless approved by the Public Trustee. Despite being informed that there are no Guardianship orders on the woman concerning her accommodation needs, SAHA refuses to communicate with the Support Coordinator. The Public Trustee has never responded to the concerns raised, for the obvious reason that public housing tenancy issues are not a Public Trustee concern.

Ms Bawden said, “Imagine being told it’s a far better solution to move house than have a ceiling fan installed because you are blind! How is this even acceptable, logical or rational? At best, it’s inhumane”.

“It is clear that ‘the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing’”, Ms Bawden said. The quality of SAHA public services is, at best, dismal. The entire department needs an overhaul and staff training needs to be provided in the importance of the role of public servant and customer service.”

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