At Jesuit Social Services, we work with people who have complex needs, including mild-to-moderate intellectual or cognitive disabilities, psychosocial disabilities and acquired brain injuries (ABI). Our participants often experience a range of co-occurring and interrelated issues including homelessness, mental illness, substance misuse, involvement with child protection and the justice systems, and experiences of trauma, including family violence.
Perry House is one of our programs supporting participants with complex mental health and neurological needs. It is a Specialist Forensic Disability Accommodation service, providing up to two years’ 24-hour supported accommodation for young men aged 17-25 who have been involved with the criminal justice system and are at risk of homelessness.
Perry House is more than just a roof over participants’ heads
Our participants have experienced grief, trauma and abuse, inhibiting their development of emotional management or coping skills. Kane Apelu, Manager of Housing Programs at Jesuit Social Services, says the work of Perry House goes beyond a safe and secure roof over participants’ heads, to provide the specialist trauma-informed support these young people need.
“Generally speaking, young people who come into Perry or Dillon House haven’t felt as if they’ve been validated in the community. There’s an unfamiliarity of being in an environment where they’re valued as people,” Kane says.
“We work through that psychological and emotional barrier first and foremost, getting participants to recognise that the support we provide is not transactional, and that the stability we provide gives them an opportunity to move forward in life.”
There is a focus at Perry House on developing independent living skills. Kane says supporting participants to gain the skills they need comes down to building trusting and respectful relationships.
“Participants can present with a sense of hopelessness and helplessness because they’ve always been pushed to the side. Over time you start to see the self-belief within participants grow as they see there’s an organisation that believes in them and wants to make a difference and give them opportunities for a better life.”
The current funding model does not meet the needs of Perry House participants
To deliver the service Perry House provides, Jesuit Social Services was block funded for many years by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH). More recently however, with the move to the NDIS, Perry House has been transitioned to a blended funding model. Jesuit Social Services has experienced numerous challenges with this transition. We have found that participant NDIS plans are inadequate when they move into Perry House, and do not meet our participants’ needs, with lengthy change of circumstance and review processes impacting negatively on participant outcomes and participants’ ability to access NDIS funding. Jesuit Social Services has had to self-fund a NDIS Business Manager position to assist with the transition process and to plan for financial viability within the NDIS, and to date, has been unable to claim any NDIS funding for services delivered at Perry House under the blended model.
The transition to a blended funding model has been time consuming, resource heavy and not cost effective – using time and resources that would be better spent improving outcomes for young people.
A strengthening of the interface between the NDIS and state-based services would also ensure that issues experienced by people with multiple and complex needs are addressed in congruence.
Ultimately, we would like to see a funding model for Perry House that adequately resources the operating cost of service given the complex needs of participants. We will continue to advocate to the incoming Victorian Government to fully fund specialised holistic care services, such as Perry House, as a separate stream that adequately provides services for people with complex needs and prevents them from falling through the gaps.