Jeffrey Smith (front) outside the Multitask group home at Goonellabah with housemates Tony Browne and Julie Shephard.
Jeffrey Smith (front) outside the Multitask group home at Goonellabah with housemates Tony Browne and Julie Shephard. Brenden Allen

Lismore housemates fight eviction from group home

THE look on Jeffrey Smith's face says it all.

Not long ago, Mr Smith and his housemates, Tony Browne and Julie Shephard, were told they would have to move from their Goonellabah home, which is owned by Multitask, a disabilities support service for the Northern Rivers.

“I feel pretty awful,” Mr Smith said. “They asked me if I wanted to move, and I said 'no'.”

Now the housemates' families are rallying around to support their bid to stay in the place they have called home for four years.

Noel Smith, father of Jeffrey, said the place his son and the other residents would be moved to was 'inadequate for their medical needs'.

“The new place will affect their health and wellbeing, and there won't be overnight supervision,” he said.

Mr Smith said the residents had been given only a week's notice about the move and their concerns had not been listened to.

According to the Multitask website, the organisation operates according to Disability Services Standards in the New South Wales Disability Act.

The website states 'each person with a disability has the opportunity to participate as fully as possible in making decisions about the events and activities of his or her daily life in relation to the services he or she receives'.

According to the families, Multitask's decision to shut down the home and move the residents elsewhere was financially-based.

“They can fix this quite easily – this is their home,” Wayne Grove, the partner of Ms Shephard's mother Joan, said.

“There is a spare room, so it seems it is either move one person in, or move four people out and close the home, and Multitask has chosen the second option,” he said.

Noel Smith said the housemates had lived well together and their families were concerned about splitting them up.

“I feel upset about being moved away from Tony, and I can't take my bonsais to my new place,” Jeffrey Smith said.

Mr Browne was sad he would have to leave the garden he had been tending.

“If I stayed, I would be happy. I love my home,” he said.

The tenants' families met with Multitask on Friday, with State MP for Lismore Thomas George mediating the discussion. As yet nothing has been resolved.

The families said Multitask had refused to deal with them as a group, insisting instead on individual meetings.

“That's not going to change anything - this is a group home, and as a group we all have the same view,” Mr Smith said.

Ability Incorporated advocate, Doug Hollingworth, is helping the families with meetings and has also arranged a class action to present to the State Ombudsman should the matter not be resolved after further meetings.

“Multitask is bound by standards, and these are not being carried out,” he said.

“It's a funding issue, but why should these people have to be disadvantaged.”

Multitask chief executive Graham Mapstone could not comment on the matter, saying 'this is not a public issue – this is a client issue'.

“Our concern and our role is to look after the issues of clients, and we can't make comments in the public arena. This is in our constitution and we need to follow process,” he said.

The next plan of action is for parents to meet again with Multitask individually.

“That's what they want, and that's what we've agreed to do, so we'll just see how it goes,” Noel Smith said.



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