Disability group home creates controversy

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Afford disability services says resident backlash to a proposed group home in Narellan for young disabled men is unwarranted.

Residents from Camden Views Estate spoke at Tuesday’s Camden Council meeting to oppose the development application.

If approved, the group home will allow five men aged between 18 and 30 to live independently with the assistance of 24-hour nursing care.

An Afford spokeswoman said resident concerns were unfounded.

“It is an understandable reaction to the unknown, but we look forward to working with our neighbours toward positive and inclusive outcomes,” she said.

“Afford run many group home across Sydney and have never experienced complaints or concerns raised by neighbours.”

Afford’s executive manager of client services Casey Hailes said at Tuesday’s council meeting the group home would benefit its residents and the broader community.

“Local population growth means there is a growing need for disability services,” she said.

“The group home will allow our clients to live independently and contribute to their community.”

Ms Hailes said southwest Sydney was an ideal location for group homes.

“Our clients cannot drive so there will be no increased traffic, there will be no excess noise and they do not pose a risk to the local community,” she said

Narellan resident Nick Harvey spoke on behalf of some of his fellow Valley View Estate residents at the meeting to object to the proposal.

“This is a major issue for the community,” he said.

“We did not choose to live next to a group home.”

Mr Harvey said residents were concerned about their safety and security and how traffic would be impacted.

“The families of Valley View believe in ‘open sharing’ in the neighbourhood,” he said.

“I’m unaware of how a group home benefits the community.

“[Afford] have selected an inappropriate location for the home.”

 NSW planning legislation defines a group home as “permanent household accommodation for people with a disability or people who are socially disadvantaged”.

Mr Harvey said residents were worried about who would live at the group home if Afford were to sell the property one day. 

“We all have young kids,” he said.

“If it were to stay a disability home we would have no problem but it is the potential for it to change that is worrying.”

Mr Harvey said the consultation process between residents, council and Afford had been inadequate.

“Full community consultation and disclosure was one of the keys of this proposal and we have had no communication from council and very sporadic communication from Afford,” he said.

“We just want answers and no one will give them to us.” 

The Afford spokeswoman said they went above and beyond to ensure group homes were filled with care, fond memories and the best quality support the disability sector had to offer.

“Afford group homes are safe and comfortable environments where housemates are able to build lifelong friendships and support networks,” she said.

“Group homes are places where people with disabilities can feel safe and comfortable – in a homely environment which is truly theirs – and have the opportunity to explore and enjoy all that their local community has to offer.”

Councillors deferred the decision to allow for Afford to meet with residents and discuss the issues raised at the meeting.