Teen with autism forced to live in Bunbury hospital for more than three months after NDIS property eviction

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A 17-year-old boy with autism spent 99 days in a rural hospital after being evicted from an assisted living facility following complaints of harm from the landlord and neighbours.

Melissa Karati said her son Marley spent more than three months in Bunbury Hospital because suitable accommodation could not be found locally.

It came as parents of children with disabilities said the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was failing its participants in some parts of regional Australia.

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the “critical lack” of supported accommodation in regional Australia was urgently addressed.

‘Very inhuman’

Ms Karati said her non-verbal son was unable to live at home due to his complex disability requiring specialist care.

She said he was “tossed back and forth between [NDIS] providers” over the past two years.

“All the registered providers we’ve looked at so far have failed to meet his needs,” she said.

“They just tossed him around. It was pretty inhumane.”

Ms Karati said the most recent care provider, St Jude’s, had ended services in October with a few hours’ notice.

“That was about nine or ten in the morning and there was two hours notice when they had to take Marley to the hospital because he had been kicked out of his house,” she said.

Melissa Karati says the NDIS failed her son Marley.(ABC Southwest WA: Georgia Loney)

$50,000 damage

A spokeswoman for St Jude’s NDIS rejected suggestions of insufficient notification.

She said the agency was unable to find alternative accommodation for Marley.

“St Jude’s leased the property and it was terminated by the landlord due to complaints from neighbors and excessive property damage by the client,” she said.

“Property damage was estimated at over $50,000.”

She said that no suitable alternative accommodation could be found or that the service would have liked to continue the care.

“The client’s family and all its stakeholders were aware of the complex behavior and concerns of neighbours, property damage and landlord regarding breach and eviction notices filed several months prior to the eviction,” she said .

“St Jude’s remained committed to supporting any transition to alternative suitable housing.”

A teenage boy in a black t-shirt sits on a hospital bed unwrapping presents
Marley O’Meara opening presents at the hospital on Christmas Day. (Supplied: Melissa Karati)

Disproportionate number of complaints

The inability to find suitable care for Marley close to home follows the case of Ryan Croft who spent months in hospital due to difficulty finding suitable care staff.

A young man, with black hair and a beard, makes his bed in a hospital.  He smiles.
Ryan Croft, who has autism, spent months in Bunbury Hospital last year.(Supplied: Ed Croft)

Busselton man Mitchell Pearce died in hospital in August while awaiting NDIS care.

NDIS Quality and Safety Commissioner Tracey Mackey visited Bunbury last week.

She said she was aware of complaints about Marley O’Meara, which were pending.

Ms Mackey said there had been a large number of complaints from the region.

“We are aware that the South West can be a thin market – with perhaps not the full range of services that could be available in Perth,” she said.

“The South West has a disproportionately high number of complaints compared to Perth.”

Ms Mackey said the NDIS was aware of the difficulties in providing care to people with complex needs.

“Sometimes they are the ones who need the most support to ensure that their rights are really taken care of and that people don’t put them at risk by treating them as a commodity, rather than as a person who has rights,” said she.

‘A critical loss’

WA Country Health Services said staff at Bunbury Hospital “went to great lengths” to care for Marley, who had since moved into supported accommodation in Perth.

A man addresses the media
Bill Shorten says there is a critical lack of assisted housing in regional Australia(MONKEY: Lucas Coch)

NDIS Secretary Bill Shorten said the National Disability Insurance Agency was working closely with Marley’s family.

“A critical lack of supported accommodation in regional Australia is being urgently addressed by the Commonwealth alongside states and territories, with South West Australia one of many areas in need of attention,” he said.

“We will continue to work with Don Punch, Western Australia’s Minister for the Disabled.”

He said NDIS participants now wait an average of 33 days for hospital discharge, compared to 160 days in May 2022.

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