MUCH like most other people her age, 32-year-old Daisy Harrison would like a place to call her own.
In drafting her National Disability Insurance Scheme plan, the Castlemaine resident identified living independently as one of her objectives.
“I would like to be in a place in Castlemaine with a few others that I knew and trust, where I have my own small space or unit,” she wrote.
“It’s not good for me to be alone for too long.
“I’m happier and healthier if I am about to choose some quiet time as well as also being involved with people of my choice doing safe, interesting, fun or useful things.”
The introduction of the NDIS is encouraging people with disabilities to pursue goals they might previously have considered dreams.
Moving out of the family home is among them, Daisy’s mother Sue said.
But while the NDIS will offer people more support to live independently, if they so wish, there remains a dearth of suitable accommodation.
Particularly in the Mount Alexander Shire, community members said.
Almost 5 per cent of the shire’s population – 815 people – identified a need for assistance in their day-to-day lives because of a disability during the 2011 census.
However, the council acknowledged in its 2015-17 Interim Disability Action Plan that the percentage of people with a disability is likely to be much greater.
“This definition does not capture those with milder forms of impairment that might affect people’s ability to actively participate in the community,” the plan stated.
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According to the Mount Alexander Shire Accommodation and Respite Group, there are no supported accommodation options in the municipality.
“Those who require supported living usually move to the Castlemaine Health Service Aged Care facilities or are obliged to move away from the area, experiencing severe disruption and connection,” the group’s website states.
The cost of support while living independently, combined with a low income, has historically made private housing unaffordable for many people.
MASARG is seeking to address the lack of affordable, long-term housing for people with disabilities by creating some of its own.
The group has launched its second project, which will see purpose-built permanent accommodation constructed in Castlemaine.
Members hope to have works underway within two years.
Research has been ongoing for some time.
In a deputation to the shire council, MASARG members said what they had already learned “clearly illustrates an urgent need.”
“Many people with intellectual disabilities will outlive their parents,” the group stated.
The group’s members – a number of whom are experiencing the stress firsthand – are concerned for the future of those people once their parents are no longer able to care for them.
“There is an expanding population of carers, mostly women, who have caring responsibilities well into their old age,” the group told the shire.
“As well, it is not unusual for the carer and/or person with disability to be impacted by considerable disadvantage.”
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Having only last year celebrated the opening of its $1.7 million respite community house at McKenzie Hill, MASARG said there was still much work to be done on its second project.
Project consultant Jan Steen is reviewing the research, which involved 16 participants.
There are a few things she and the group’s members already know.
One is that the accommodation will have to be situated in the heart of the town – a challenge, given Castlemaine’s rising property value.
But, given the limited number of people with access to their own mode of transportation, access to public transport is a crucial factor.
Jan said it was important the residents of the accommodation MASARG was planning to build were close to their peers, and that they were able to socialise and be independent.
The group is considering a model similar to the KeyRing Network, which places a volunteer support worker at the centre of a number of supported accommodation premises.
The supported accommodation properties would be within similar distance to the support worker’s residence, but not clustered together.
MASARG members believe the model will offer flexibility and a self-directed approach to support, community inclusion and low cost.
Sue Harrison, who is one of the project’s leaders, stressed the importance of assisting people to live independently in their local community – a place where they are known, supported and safe.
“I will always need lots of support from kind people to do the sorts of things that Mum does for me,” Sue’s daughter, Daisy, wrote in her draft NDIS plan.
But while her personal circumstances have informed her awareness of the issue, Sue said A Home of My Own was not intended to benefit her child.
The project would help all those in need of support.
As the financial year comes to a close, MASARG has invited members of the community to contribute to the project.
“Basically, it all comes down to dollars of support,” Jan said.
Further information about the project is available on the MASARG website: www.masarg.org.