VICTORIA'S public advocate has voiced "serious concerns" for the wellbeing of residents of supported residential facilities, which are "ill-equipped" to care for the complex needs of their residents
The comments come after Bendigo supported residential facility Bignold Park last week gave residents notice to vacate within 31 days.
Public advocate Colleen Pearce said her concerns were particularly facilities which charged only the cost of the pension for accommodation and support.
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She said supported residential services were originally designed as private accommodation with limited support, for people who were frail and elderly but not yet ready for nursing home care.
Instead Dr Pearce said they had become the default institutions for people with a disability and mental illness.
She said the Office of the Public Advocate had long advocated for improvements to the sector and better regulation.
Dr Pearce called for an online, publicly available compliance register so everyone could assess the quality of care in a particular SRS.
She said community visitors were not automatically advised about any compliance notices or actions against supported residential facilities made by the state government.
Instead they needed to visit facilities to view any notices government required them to display, Dr Pearce said.
Community visitors monitor services and facilities to protect health, safety, wellbeing and rights of people receiving mental health or disability services at prescribed premises.
The community visitors 2019-20 annual report documented 65 matters of abuse and neglect in supported residential facilities across Victoria.
The report described a "fragmented approach" to SRS oversight, saying community visitors were frustrated by a "leadership vacuum".
The community visitors called on Victoria's Human Service Regulator - now under the oversight of the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing - to provide greater regulatory guidance, and give practical advice to services about how to meet their obligations.
The report also warned "low-care" SRS were increasingly accommodating residents with complex needs, while having insufficient support, knowledge or skilled staff.
It said this could contribute to a deterioration in residents' health.
Dr Pearce said community visitors had attended the recent meeting advising residents of Bignold Park's sudden closure.
But Dr Pearce said volunteers had been conducting their visits by phone over the past year, so they had not seen everything they normally would.
About 130 supported residential services were registered in Victoria during 2019-20, providing care to people with disabilities, mental health disorders and elderly people. These facilities are a state responsibility.
Aged care homes - which are a federal responsibility - are routinely inspected by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, with reports made publicly available.
Victoria's Human Services Regulator has responsibility for oversight of supported residential facilities, but does not publish its reports publicly.
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