Dis­abled: Bored, lonely and ig­nored

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - Marty Sharpe marty.sharpe@stuff.co.nz

Dis­abled clients of a trust re­ceiv­ing $855,000 in gov­ern­ment fund­ing were left sit­ting idle, bored and sleep­ing on couches in the re­cep­tion area at the trust’s Napier of­fice.

Dis­abil­ity Train­ing Ser­vices – also known as DTS Epic Path­ways – is run by a char­i­ta­ble trust in Napier with the aim of sup­port­ing dis­abled peo­ple to be­come ‘‘val­ued and con­tribut­ing mem­bers of their com­mu­nity’’.

But an in­de­pen­dent au­dit of the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s man­ager’s po­si­tion late last year found a raft of short­com­ings. The trust is now be­ing closely watched by the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment.

The au­dit, com­mis­sioned by the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s board, found clients us­ing the ser­vice were in­ac­tive and not ad­e­quately en­gaged for long pe­ri­ods, and that there were not enough pro­grammes and ac­tiv­i­ties to keep them busy.

It said clients were sit­ting idle for long pe­ri­ods and sleep­ing on couches in the re­cep­tion and hall­way of the ser­vice’s cen­tre.

The level of bore­dom in some clients was re­flected in bad be­hav­iour and dis­rup­tion to­wards oth­ers.

‘‘Clients brought into the cen­tre in wheel­chairs [were] sta­tioned at a ta­ble with no ac­tiv­ity and/or lit­tle en­gage­ment with them,’’ the au­dit re­ported.

It also said the van used as the main form of trans­port was a 1996 Toy­ota Hiace found to be unin­sured with no war­rant of fit­ness at the time of the au­dit.

Im­por­tant doc­u­ments had been shred­ded and a trust-owned lap­top was miss­ing.

The au­dit also found no ev­i­dence of plan­ning for the ser­vice, lit­tle work done on fundrais­ing, a lack of con­trol of fi­nan­cial records, and lit­tle ev­i­dence of re­la­tion­ship build­ing. It con­cluded that, given the level of staff and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties as well as its fi­nan­cial sta­tus, there was not a role for full­time gen­eral man­age­ment.

Run­ning in var­i­ous forms since the 1980s, the char­i­ta­ble trust that op­er­ates DTS Epic Path­ways lost more than $1 mil­lion in 2014 when trustees launched a mis­guided ginkgo ven­ture that col­lapsed ow­ing cred­i­tors $1.7 mil­lion.

Its trustees dis­es­tab­lished the po­si­tion of man­ager Vanessa McIn­tosh. She left four weeks af­ter be­ing ad­vised of this.

How­ever, a new chair­woman, Nancy Young­man, re­in­stated the man­ager’s po­si­tion and reap­pointed McIn­tosh in Jan­uary.

The ser­vice is funded by the Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment un­der a three-year con­tract for $855,471, end­ing in June next year.

The trust’s lat­est per­for­mance re­port, to the end of June 2017, said it pro­vided ser­vices to 47 clients aged be­tween 18 and 65.

The au­dit was car­ried out by Tr­ish Gid­dens, who man­aged Angli­can So­cial Ser­vices in Hawke’s Bay for 10 years and has more than 30 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in health and so­cial ser­vice man­age­ment.

She also served as mayor and a coun­cil­lor on Cen­tral Hawke’s Bay District Coun­cil.

Mike Richards, who was a trus­tee for three years un­til last No­vem­ber, said the needs of clients us­ing the ser­vice were not be­ing met.

The ser­vice’s next ac­cred­i­ta­tion as­sess­ment was due in June 2019, when its con­tract ex­pired.

A Char­i­ties Ser­vices spokesman said there was no record of any com­plaints or con­cerns be­ing raised about the trust.

‘‘Char­i­ties Ser­vices has not au­dited or in­ves­ti­gated the trust, and has no record of be­ing no­ti­fied of the No­vem­ber au­dit,’’ he said.

The Dis­abil­ity Train­ing Ser­vices/Epic Path­ways of­fices in Napier.

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