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Royal Commission investigates arrangements for participants living in Victorian Supported Residential Services

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WARNING: This hearing summary contains information that may be upsetting.

On days four and five of Hearing 26, the Royal Commission focused its enquiries on Victorian Supported Residential Services (SRS).

Evidence was sought from people with lived experience of disability residing in Supported Residential Services (SRS), a family member of a former SRS resident, representatives from a Homelessness Support Service, the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate, and the Victorian Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH). Council Assisting introduced Supported Residential Services as privately-owned registered accommodation settings where a proprietor offers accommodation and support services to residents under the guidance of individualised support plans. Unlike NDIS participants, SRS residents pay out of pocket for these services, with services generally charging approximately 85 per cent of a person's pension and 100 per cent of Commonwealth Rent Assistance. Approximately 4,000 SRS places exist in Victoria, 79 per cent of which are utilised by people with disability. One thousand and six hundred SRS residents have NDIS plans. Day four of the Hearing commenced with testimony from ‘Denise’, a former SRS resident who noted that she felt constantly sick while living in an SRS and spoke of the poor heating in the premises and a lack of privacy due to her door not shutting properly. Denise indicated that she had felt terrified that someone was going to come into her room and kill her and described feeling haunted by a man who would shout at her and throw things at her. The day continued with evidence from representatives of Wintringham, a Melbourne-based specialist homelessness, disability and housing service and SRS provider, who had recently taken over the failing ‘Hambleton House,’ a 41-bed SRS property at which Denise had been a resident. The Commissioners witnessed photographic evidence of putrid living conditions, padlocked doors preventing exit, and maintenance issues posing significant safety hazards, including exposed wiring in a bathroom. It also heard that the smell in the property was intolerable, the food budget was $2 per resident per day, and that a number of persons listed to be residents of the property were unaccounted for. Representatives from Wintringham described SRSs as a ‘market response to a failure in services’, and indicated that in many cases, the NDIS does not provide timely and adequate supports or funding to solve issues related to homelessness. The Royal Commission then heard from two further individuals who had lived experience of disability and residing in SRS accommodation. The first was ‘Jacob’, who noted that he only had $20 left to spend after paying for his SRS place. Jacob detailed his experience undertaking a 23-day hunger strike, and detailed poor access to laundry facilities and not having an individual support plan. The second was ‘Bel,’ a current SRS resident who noted that she did not have sheets on her bed for a significant period of time, does not get to eat fruit or vegetables, has difficulty accessing support for showering, and described accessing her medication as a ‘struggle.’ Bel said that she would rather live on the streets than continue to live in an SRS, and would love support to live in a group home with three to four other women. Day four concluded with evidence from Dr Colleen Pearce, Public Advocate from the Office of the Public Advocate in Victoria. Dr Pearce raised a number of concerns in relation to the SRS sector in Victoria, including:

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