AFLW star Moana Hope in fight to stop her disabled sister's care program from shutting
Updated June 08, 2019 13:12:15
High-profile AFLW player Moana Hope was dreading breaking the news that she knew would devastate her sister Lavinia.
- The Bridges program has been teaching basic life skills to adults with mild-to-severe intellectual disabilities since 1992
- Hope’s sister has been attending the program for eight years and the AFLW star is vowing to fight the closure
- Melbourne City Mission says the program is not financially viable under the NDIS
Lavinia, 26, has a rare neurological syndrome and has attended a special day program for people with intellectual disabilities in Melbourne’s north for the past eight years.
The Bridges program in Pascoe Vale has taught adults with mild-to-severe intellectual disabilities basic life skills since 1992.
But this week Hope received a phone call to say the service was shutting because it could not continue under a new National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funding model.
“I think it’s the most heartbreaking news I’ve ever had to tell her because I know the joy that the school brings for Vinny,” Hope said.
“This is her thing, she loves it more than anything … we can’t let it happen.”
“I don’t think it’s human to tell people with special needs that we’re taking away this program of yours that you’ve done your entire life.”
Hope took to social media to protest against the closure, which is set to take place in September.
She posted a video on Instagram showing her family’s despair and vowing to lobby relevant politicians and bureaucrats to try to help secure the program’s future.
‘Enormous joy, will be sorely missed’
The charity Melbourne City Mission, which runs the Bridges program, has this week been telling the program’s 80 students and 26 staff that it will shut in September.
Chief executive Vicki Sutton said the not-for-profit group had spent two years trying to make the program fit within the individualised NDIS funding model.
But she said it was not financially viable.
“It’s been a very difficult decision and we know how difficult it is for our staff and for the participants and their families, many of whom have been with us for many years at Bridges,” she said.
She said staff, participants and their families had all been very sad and shocked by the announcement.
“Bridges has absolutely provided participants with a community and friendship groups and enormous joy and that will be sorely missed,” she said.
Hope said her family was devastated and pointed to the impact the closure would have, not only on participants like her sister, but on families as well.
“If these students don’t have their place to go, parents will have to quit work to be stay-at-home, full-time carers,” she said.
Vital life skills
She said the program had taught Lavinia social skills and many basic life skills.
“They teach them how to put bread in the toaster or the transport program where they teach them how to get on and off a train … the little things that everybody would take for granted,” Hope said.
Melbourne City Mission is promising to help the 80 participants move to other services and programs.
But Hope was doubtful.
“The advice they gave me was to apply for a worker to come and do some one-on-one stuff with Vinny every now and then.
“There’s a massive difference between one-on-one individual hanging out, to Vinny being in a class full of friends.”
A spokesperson for the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) which runs the NDIS, said the decision to close the Bridges program had been made by Melbourne City Mission, not the NDIA.
“Organisations may make business decisions to cease or change the services they offer,” the spokesperson said.
“The NDIA would like to reassure participants and their families we will work with them to ensure they access alternative services to meet their needs.”
But Hope said she wold not rest until the decision to close Bridges was reversed.
“I’m not very good with politics but I’ll find out whose door to knock on. This is not right. Special needs people depend on this school.”
First posted June 08, 2019 08:50:32