29 November 2023

New disability residence model aims to overcome isolation

| Dione David
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United for Care participants enjoy milestone moments in an independent living environment, with support available where needed.

United for Care participants enjoy milestone moments in an independent living environment, with support available when needed. Photo: United For Care.

Hot on the heels of Social Inclusion Week, a leading disability housing provider is raising awareness of innovative solutions to provide housing and inclusivity to those living with disabilities.

United For Care, which has a branch in Wollongong, recently launched its new “Vertical Village” model, which aims to give people with disabilities more independence and support to provide a greater sense of security, safety and ownership.

The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability highlighted that the current setup of group homes is not optimal, with high levels of abuse and neglect.

It found that about 17,000 people with disability, mainly people with intellectual disability, live in group homes in Australia – specialist accommodation where several people with disability might live together and receive support from carers.

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The findings unveiled data that showed abuse and neglect were pervasive in group homes with reports of the use of chemical and physical restraints for financial exploitation by staff members.

Commissioners want group homes phased out entirely over 15 years, arguing the model will “never realise the rights of people with disability”.

United For Care’s alternative Vertical Village model, which includes smart homes with in-house Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) and Supported Independent Living (SIL) specialists, allows people with disability to live in their own apartments by themselves or with family, with access to 24/7 on-site support.

The design of Vertical Villages reduces the risk of aggressive incidents significantly by offering allied health referrals in as little as two weeks and working with a strong network of local hospitals and mental health units.

Facade of United For Care vertical village on Thomas Street in Wollongong

United For Care has a Vertical Village on Thomas Street in Wollongong. Photo: United For Care.

United for Care’s Wollongong practice lead Sarah Bridge said unlike conventional models, the Vertical Villages model could keep residents safe while empowering them to exercise choice and control, with opportunities to develop and build capacity.

“The residents love this place. Even today we had what we call a transition – a new client coming in. He moved into a two-bedroom apartment so his wife and kids can stay but whenever they do have to leave, they know he’s supported and they don’t have to worry,” she said.

“Everyone has their own space; we’re not in their faces, but when they need support, we’re right there. We go from floor to floor every day and they have access to us 24/7.

“The residents also become friends and we create opportunities for them to socialise in communal areas. Every Friday night here is barbecue night; we get together and have sausage sandwiches and play games.

“They all tell us it has made such a difference to their lives.”

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According to Vertical Village participant Olly, there’s a lot to love about the concept.

“United for Care is an amazing place to live. I make new friends and it really is a lovely place to live. I love the get-togethers, parties and of course, the food. The staff are amazing, and they are just like family,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

United For Care has more than 10 Vertical Villages operating across NSW, housing more than 80 people with disabilities.

For more information, please visit United For Care.

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