History – the Nardy saga

The Nardy House Committee was formed in 1994 and initially we operated as a Committee of Council. A donation of five and a half acres of land was made to the group and its main aim was, and still remains, to provide permanent accommodation to people with profound disabilities. We gained charity status, from the Taxation Department, while still working under the Council banner on the proviso that if we received any Government funding that we separately incorporate immediately. This was done many years ago.

The planning of the Nardy House project resulted in a three-stage facility. These stages reflected the physical needs of the people who would be using the facility and the requirements of their carers. The first stage was a permanent accommodation house for six people with profound disabilities; the second stage was a respite facility for six people with profound disabilities and the third stage was a therapy room and pool for use by clients and local residents with therapy needs.

We tried for many years and through various lobbying means to gain access to help with the building of the permanent accommodation stage. The Department of Housing (NSW State Government) said they would assist with infrastructure costs ONLY IF the Department of Ageing, Disability and Homecare (DADHC) recurrently funded the facility. DADHC would never do this. The reason for this reluctance lies in the cost of housing a person with a profound disability. The State Government has the responsibility to look after all levels of people with disabilities and it circumvents this responsibility by housing the most expensive clients in aged care nursing homes. The State Government saves on the accommodation costs because aged care nursing homes are basically Federally funded and the person in the nursing home is not eligible for State run services: health, education, transport and equipment. An economically sound approach if somewhat morally reprehensible! The State Government now tells us (a new approach after the State election) that the Department of Housing no longer provides infrastructure funds to people requiring? congregate care? (whatever that means) and that all funding for infrastructure and servicing must come from DADHC. As this Department has avoided the care of people with high support needs wherever possible help from this source seems unlikely.

We are now building the accommodation stage. The roof is on the building. The frame for the building was paid for by Lion’s International and the roof became a possibility because a local Quaama man made a donation on behalf of his late wife. The Committee and local community continue to fund raise and support us (see Friends and Supporters) .The Ryder Cheshire Foundation has made substantial commitment to our permanent accommodation building programme so we are well on track to having the facility to lock up stage in the New Year (2011)

Some years ago $65 million was handed to the State of NSW by the Federal Government specifically tagged for respite. We applied for funding to build the respite stage. The Government (Faye Lo Po Ministry) supplied $430 000 for infrastructure and with the help of local tradespeople and professionals we erected the building. Some time later we applied for help with set-up costs and we were granted $90 000 (Carmel Tebbutt Ministry). The building plans and our submission for funding detailed the clientele and the manner of running the building. We needed to run it on a twenty-four hour /seven day a week basis- in fact along the lines of a nursing home. Staff needed to be highly trained and skilled and we believed there were enough clients to run it. DADHC identified 45 families in our region needing this level of respite yet very few families were receiving any respite. DADHC would not supply the names of clients to us ?for privacy reasons- nor would they contact them on our behalf to see if they would use the service. Carers we knew personally had been approached and had given their respite needs to us and they reflected a desire for the service we wished to offer. Additionally we had requests from outside the region- obviously this level of respite is rarely available yet highly sought after. People from our region went to Canberra, Wollongong and Dalgety to receive centre-based respite.

The NSW Government refused over a long period of time to recurrently fund the building for the purpose for which it was built. DADHC used ever ploy in the book to stop us- hence the 7.30 REPORT presentation. We had discussions with them about a tender process- some money for running the facility was to be placed on the table and we would tender for it in a consortium with the Cram Foundation (a charity that provides permanent accommodation for high level clients) who would act as our mentor in the first years of operation. If DADHC did not put a realistic figure on the table we would not be tendering and the facility would remain empty, as it had done for twelve months. We believed, then as now, that we had worked too hard and for too long to be supplying DADHC?s needs rather than the needs of people with profound disabilities and their carers to turn back.

The Nardy House Respite recurrent funding issue was raised in Ageing & Disability Estimates Hearing early in 2007 and on Friday 8th September. Answers given to questions were incorrect and misleading. We sent in corrections and protested however DADHC officials from the Department, the Director General?s Department, the Ministry and the Minister himself have made claims (the Nardy House Committee was offered $400 000 in recurrent funding being one) for which there is no documentation. The tender process was worked through in conjunction with Cram and DADHC over a period of seven months. The tender document did not show up. In fact we were told that the tender document we were assured was 90% complete towards the end of March did not exist. We prepared a generic tender document and our local member, Andrew Constance, 30th August in the Legislative Assembly, presented it. We hoped John Ryan, Opposition Minister DADHC would do the same in the Legislative Council. When Peter Debnam visited Nardy House. Minister John Della Bosca issued a press release to the local media claiming he would take Peter Debnam to ICAC if he promised us funding

Nardy House was the subject of a Budget Estimates recall on the 23rd October 2006. We made detailed comments on answers given during this recall that are available on request. We were willing to supply Minutes to verify what we had commented on.

Nardy House is unique and is a model for delivery of very high-level support to carers of people with profound disabilities. As we now have Council approval of working drawings we will commence the permanent accommodation stage of the facility. The Development Application for this stage was approved some time ago. The Premier has been kept informed regarding the situation and was invited to open the facility. We had a meeting (the Cram Foundation and Nardy House) with the Director General, Brendan O?Reilly to present and outline the Draft Tender document. At the meeting we were told that there was never an intent to issue a tender because we could not ?compete ? with other service providers because we owned the building As the Nardy House Committee, together with Cram, had spent seven months preparing for this tender we were not impressed. The Director General insisted on a partnership with either DADHC or Cram with the funding being the entire responsibility of DADHC or Cram. We could not see how legally or practically this could be done however agreed to look at their proposal. What arrived was a cobbled together generic service provision description that had nothing to do with partnering and generalised criticisms of our tender document with no figures to substantiate the criticisms and no funding figure for running the service. The Minutes of this meeting were not provided to us despite assurances that there would be Minutes taken and repeated requests for the same.We believed the process to be an absolute disgrace. The Nardy House Committee approached the Ombudsman?s Office regarding this situation. The request for the Minutes plus the Ombudsman?s reply to our request is available on our website; nardyhouse.org.au. The response is worth perusing because it demonstrates the complete lack of accountability that the present bureaucracy in NSW is able to operate under.

Prior to the State Elections a mediation session was organised by our pro bono Solicitor. We cannot divulge the details of the mediation session however what resulted was an agreement sent to our Solicitor the day before the State elections that did not reflect the agreed mediation position. Our Solicitor therefore spent a couple of weeks consulting with the Committee and drawing up a contract that did reflect the agreed position. This was sent to DADHC for ?approval? on Thursday 26th April. In the meantime on Monday 23rd April a representative from the National Safety Council and a DADHC representative met Betsy and Zeke Hilton at Betsy?s house. This was followed by an inspection at Nardy House by this officer plus three other DADHC workers.

This was the first time any one in charge of our funding had met Zeke and this was the first ?inspection ? of this kind. The safety audit was to determine what service our DADHC partners could offer within the house. We waited for ?amendments? to the above agreement: this wait was despite the very great urgency to have the deal concluded by the end of April. We waited to receive the National Safety Council report. In the meantime our local member and DADHC Opposition Spokesperson, Andrew Constance MLA, had a briefing with the new Minister, Kristina Keneally and the Nardy House issue was raised. I met with Andrew Constance at 10:30 AM at Parliament House on Thursday 31st May to discuss a very public response to our situation.

Finally DADHC and Nardy Inc signed a partnership agreement later in 2007 and Nardy House Respite doors were opened in early December 2007. The agreement allowed DADHC to run a fully funded specialised, twenty-four hour/seven days a week facility designed to cater for the needs of people with profound disabilities for its first two years of operation. This two-year period was to allow Nardy House Inc to develop the necessary service delivery expertise to run the service. The facility is run in conjunction with a determining Advisory Board consisting of two DADHC representatives? two Nardy House Inc representatives and an Independent Chair. The facility is operating with nursing staff and at this time ( November2010) is operating at full capacity. The newly named ADHC has asked for a further extension of the contractual period that has in principle been accepted. We have a Nardy House Board of very skilled members ready to take over the running of the facility when the contract expires

Nardy House Inc has started the permanent accommodation, as outlined above we are heading to lockup stage. The main building aim of the Committee is being achieved. It remains to be seen whether the incoming NSW State Government supports the project with recurrent funding after March 2011. We have expectations in this regard and so do carers of people with profound disabilities.

Denise Redmond Project Manager 17/11/2010