Cruel cuts

• Sharon Salmon (right) is overcome with emotion as she discusses the future of her brother Shane Norton with their sister Gail Russell.

• Sharon Salmon (right) is overcome with emotion as she discusses the future of her brother Shane Norton with their sister Gail Russell.

EVERY morning that Shane Norton has woken up for the last 13 years his best mate John has also been tumbling out of bed just down the hall.

That’s longer than the average Aussie marriage lasts (8.7 years), yet the two disabled men now face being forced to live apart because of the Barnett government’s push to privatise.

Mr Norton’s devastated sisters say a decision to hive off more accommodation from the Disability Services Commission into the non-profit sector is cruel, as the three other long-term tenants of his Hamilton Hill group home are effectively his family.

Gail Russell says she can’t get answers from the government about the future of her 52-year-old brother, who has Down syndrome.

“What the government is proposing to do with the privatisation of the homes and staff will be devastating to these disabled, disadvantaged and vulnerable men and women,” Ms Russell said.

Vulnerable people

“We are being told that we will be given choices but the only choice we want for our brother and everyone else concerned is that things stay the way they are now .

“People who want to make changes—huge changes in the lives of these vulnerable people should first have to go and live with them—not for a day but for an extended time and they will understand what a turmoil they will inflict on them .

“The horror stories that we have heard about, that comes with privatisation, is a real concern.”

Gail’s sister Sharon Salmon says Mr Norton’s mate John and a carer have been together for almost 30 years.

“They say they are going to give us options, but what options? You haven’t got options, if you don’t have the option you want. And he can’t talk, but we know how happy he is because he doesn’t want to even come home with us.”

Fremantle Labor MP Simone McGurk, who spoke to the sisters outside the group home on Thursday morning said simply talking to the family showed how much the Barnett government’s decision will impact on them.

“The government says that their policy will give people choice, but that’s simply not true—if there was choice Gail and  Sharon’s brother Shane would stay where he is, happy and secure and professionally cared for,” she said.

“The reality is that the Barnett government is privatising disability accommodation to save money. The human impact of this decision is not acceptable. “

Acting disability services minister Joe Francis says around 60 per cent of DSC accommodation services would be outsourced over the next few years. Most disability housing was already in the hands of the non-profit sector.

“People who live in commission accommodation and their families will be contacted if they are identified to have their supports transitioned to the non-government sector,” he said. “The transition aims to offer people with disability who live in commission accommodation more choice and control over the supports and services they receive, and aligns with the principles of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to provide more individualised supports and services.”

by BRENDAN FOSTER

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