Disabled: Bored, lonely and ignored
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.