Protest at Parliament House an "upbeat" success

UPDATE 3.45PM: More than 90 people marched to the steps of Parliament House on Wednesday, handing a petition signed by hundreds to Bendigo MP Maree Edwards. 

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams said about 40 people travelled from Bendigo to protest against the closure of the Sandhurst Centre. 

"Some staff from the centre took annual leave so they could attend," he said.

"There were many family members who attended, too."

Mr Williams said there was an upbeat and positive atmosphere. 

EARLIER:

THOUSANDS of signed cards calling for "certainty for Sandhurst residents, staff and families" will be presented at Parliament House on Wednesday.

The Certainty for Sandhurst cards will be presented to Bendigo MPs Maree Edwards and Jacinta Allan by a group of Sandhurst workers and their supporters at noon on the steps of Parliament House.

The petition will be passed on to Disability Services Minister Mary Wooldridge.

The Sandhurst campaign has attracted statewide attention with disability workers from around Victoria joining the campaign and signing the cards.

Health and Community Services Union state secretary Lloyd Williams said the government was leaving residents, their families and staff hanging.

“There is absolutely no certainty for anyone," he said.

“The government is constantly saying they are consulting but never answering the key questions of where the residents will live in the future, whether the carers residents have known all their life will go with them and whether the workers will have a job at all."

Meanwhile, the government has confirmed more than 150 consultations with parents and staff have already been held as part of the planning process for the closure of the Bendigo disability institution known as Sandhurst.

Minister for Disability Services and Reform Mary Wooldridge said Sandhurst’s closure, announced in May last year, would be a carefully managed process scheduled for completion in June 2016.

The 29 Sandhurst residents will move into community living, with the development of up to five new supported accommodation homes in the Bendigo.

Ms Wooldridge said residents, families and staff had been regularly informed throughout the planning for the transition.

“Having met with residents, family and staff, I understand the changes underway at Sandhurst are significant and can create concern, which is why the closure is being planned and managed in such a thorough and consultative manner over a three-year period,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“We have been working individually with each of the 29 residents to understand their needs and living preferences.

"Individualised planning has been completed for all but one resident whose plan was delayed by illness.

“We will also work with service providers to design and develop new options informed by individualised client plans.

“I also met with staff, residents and families at Sandhurst in June last year to hear their questions and concerns.”

Ms Wooldridge said staff were being supported with internal information forums and regular updates.

Ms Wooldridge said the government was committed to supporting people with a disability to live in the community.

“The Victorian Coalition Government believes people with disability have a right to choice and control over their living environments,” Ms Wooldridge said.

“For the residents of Sandhurst, this will be best achieved through the development of new services in the community rather than an institution.”

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