Young pun­ished in a place they don’t be­long

The Australian - - THE NATION - RICK MOR­TON SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS EDITOR

Kirby Lit­t­ley was 28 when she had a stroke af­fect­ing both sides of her brain and ended up in a nurs­ing home in Victoria, a place she de­scribed as be­ing to­tally un­in­ter­ested in her.

The for­mer teacher, who worked with stu­dents at a spe­cial school, de­scribes times when staff were rude to her, ig­nored her and, in some cases, pun­ished her by re­mov­ing her com­mu­ni­ca­tion board, the only way she could speak with an­other hu­man.

“They didn’t re­ally want to deal with me,” Ms Lit­t­ley told The Aus­tralian yes­ter­day. “They took my board away be­cause they didn’t do what I wanted, and didn’t lis­ten to me.”

Her mother Carol Lit­t­ley, also a teacher, said the fam­ily was suf­fer­ing what she de­scribed as post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der. “It wasn’t just what we saw hap­pen with Kirby, but with other res­i­dents at the home as well,” she said.

“There was a real cul­ture of se­crecy and of bul­ly­ing, not just of res­i­dents but of the staff who were ac­tu­ally kind and nice to peo­ple there.”

While Kirby was in the home for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, she was oc­ca­sion­ally pre­vented from go­ing to her ses­sions be­cause she had “chucked a tantrum” and was be­ing pun­ished, her mother said. “I’d go home at night and just cry won­der­ing what was go­ing to hap­pen next and what we would do.”

Kirby is one of 23 young peo­ple in nurs­ing homes who have re­ceived a hous­ing al­lowance un­der the Na­tional Dis­abil­ity In­sur­ance Scheme. To­gether with money from a home she owned be­fore her ill­ness, she has bought an apart­ment where she will soon be able to live in­de­pen­dently.

More than 6000 young peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties are in nurs­ing homes. The NDIS has given sup­port to 2749, and 173 have been re­jected. A fur­ther 3600 are wait­ing to be as­sessed.

Only 23 have ac­cess to spe­cial­ist dis­abil­ity ac­com­mo­da­tion fund­ing to al­low them to find homes out­side of aged care.

David Carey, 55, had a stroke and has been in a nurs­ing home for a year now. He says it is “too long” to be in an area with older peo­ple who have ad­vanced de­men­tia. “You come in here and the so­lu­tion is just med­i­ca­tion, med­i­ca­tion, med­i­ca­tion and you think, surely there must be more to life.”

SARAH MATRAY

Cul­ture of se­crecy and bul­ly­ing: Stroke vic­tim Kirby Lit­t­ley with par­ents Kevin and Carol

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