CEO Update 4 October
4 October, 2023
The Disability Royal Commission
The Royal Commission into violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability (otherwise known as the Disability Royal Commission) handed down its multi volume, 220 recommendation report to the Federal Government last week. Notwithstanding that over the period of the Commission there have been some truly terrible and distressing experiences recounted by people with disabilities as well as professionals, the Commission has had the unenviable task of synthesising thousands of submissions, presentations and personal conversations into strategic and policy determining recommendations. The Government will consider these wide-ranging recommendations carefully before responding to most of them. Just a few are attracting considerable media attention. Perhaps not surprisingly these are ones where the Commissioners themselves were divided in their views.
Particularly pertinent to the Bayley House community is the commentary around ‘segregated’ settings, notably the suggestion that ‘special schools’ should be entirely phased out (within 30 years). Clearly the narrative (if not the actual recommendations) has expanded to include other ‘segregated’ or ‘special’ settings as well. I appreciate that families and staff have found some of this discussion quite concerning both in terms of the potential to restrict future options as well as the negative connotations inherent in this commentary.
Let’s be really clear; Bayley House provides, and will continue to provide, fantastic services for people with intellectual disability. We endeavour every day to empower our service users, to support them and to encourage them to test boundaries; to NOT be constrained by expectations or service systems. Importantly we believe that ‘choice and control’ is best led by the people we serve; people with intellectual disability. Without wishing to sound divisive it is disturbingly evident that much of the rhetoric we hear is from people with physical disabilities and I remain unconvinced that the voice of people with an intellectual disability is being adequately heard or represented.
What is critical is that we continue to strive to do things better, to learn, to question, to challenge…and to offer new and different opportunities from which people can choose. That…is choice and control.
In just the last 12 months alone, whilst continuing to offer our existing diverse array of service opportunities, Bayley House has delivered two new and innovative offerings which will transform the future for many existing and new clients –
Bayley Arts; a real community arts hub which provides amazing facilities for our clients as well as for the community as a whole. This is a Bayley House service and site and it is actually a part of the community. It sets the bar high in terms of building, design, innovation and inclusion.
BlueCHP SDA housing; our partnership with BlueCHP Housing Association will facilitate the design and construction of houses across Bayside for people with intellectual disability. They will NOT be constrained by the past. They will NOT be constrained by the views of those with no experience of intellectual disability. They WILL be co-designed with input from our clients, families, staff and BlueCHP. They will include shared living because that is what our clients tell us they want. They will be smaller than existing stock because that is also what many clients say they want. For people with intellectual disability their home is a significant part of their social lives and this is critical. This is choice and control.
The Disability Royal Commission has heard some truly terrible things and the sector must respond urgently and strongly to ensure that the rights and aspirations, the safety and security of people with disability are both respected and guaranteed. But choice and control must be exercised by people with disabilities and not in fact imposed by others, however well intentioned.
As CEO I am proud that our staff strive every day to do better, to question and to take risk in the interests of our clients. I thank our families for their trust in us and their passionate support for their family members. We can always do better; and listening to people with disability and what THEY want is the key to doing so.