Editorial: A dark day for Bendigo’s disability services

YESTERDAY afternoon in Hargreaves Mall a Kalianna School student was left bloodied and bruised after being punched to the face during a school excursion.

At the same time, just metres away, the board of Radius Disability Services was informing staff and clients it was entering voluntary administration.

October 17, 2016 will forever be remembered as a dark day for Bendigo and the people both old and young with disabilities living within its boundaries.

For more than six decades Radius has kept some of this community’s most vulnerable residents out of institutions by providing them with love, care and opportunity.

As a result of this service and the dedication of its employees, countless people have been able to live independent and fulfilling lives, free to realise their full potential.

The shocking announcement by the board yesterday afternoon that Radius is no longer financially viable is the most bitter of blows to Bendigo.

A society is judged on how it treats its most vulnerable citizens and for a long time Radius Disability Services has been a shining example to us all.

Largely reliant on government money, the organisation invested heavily in social enterprises – most notably its flagship Morley’s Emporium – to supplement this funding.

But despite the tireless efforts of so many people, it was not enough and in the board’s informed opinion the financial hurdles were too great to overcome.

Radius chairman Russell Robertson said yesterday the decision was made after “new information” came to light amid an investigation conducted by new CEO Alyson Miller. 

No further details have yet been forthcoming, but it is an ominous statement that needs to be elaborated on.

The decision plunges the futures of its 133 supported employees, 102 day service clients and 78 general employees into doubt.

While administrators have pledged there will be no changes to care arrangements in the “immediate term”, meeting the particular needs of its clients must be paramount.

As the vicious, unprovoked assault on the Kalianna School student yesterday so sadly and starkly demonstrates, even in a community as traditionally caring as Bendigo it is not an easy life for people with disabilities.

Now, more than ever before, it is incumbent upon us all to assist these vulnerable people through a difficult transition.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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