The State Government has reaffirmed its commitment to moving people with disability out of institutions and into community accommodation and is this week communicating with Highgate Park’s residents and staff about the facility’s eventual closure.
There are currently 11 residents living at Highgate Park, previously known as the Julia Farr Centre, who will gradually move into alternative community accommodation in the coming weeks and months.
Of the 11 remaining residents, five residents are being supported to move into alternative accommodation imminently.
The eventual closure has been earmarked since 2014 and no new residents have moved into the facility since then.
In the short-term, services will continue to be provided to the remaining residents at Highgate Park as they are supported to find other accommodation in the community or in aged care facilities.
Minister Lensink said the State Government’s priority was ensuring support for both residents and staff.
“We will ensure the utmost care and support to residents and their families at this time, recognising Highgate is their home and many have lived there the majority of their lives,” said Minister Lensink.
“This is the end of an era – Highgate Park provided support to more than 800 people at its peak in the late 1970s but we now know that institutionalised care is no longer considered best practice in disability support.
“Over the past few years the Department has been moving residents into community accommodation with great success giving people living with disability opportunities in the community than ever before.
“A specific closure date will not be set until all remaining residents have a place to transition to alternative accommodation.”
Minister Lensink said the State Government had worked closely with affected staff and unions over the past two years following national reforms to the disability and aged care sector.
“We will continue to ensure staff are being supported to either transfer with their clients to community homes or have been supported with training and development to move into new positions elsewhere in the public sector,” said Minister Lensink.
A number of staff have already moved into alternative employment or have taken separation packages.
Tracey Gibb, aged 46, lived at Highgate Park for 20 years, since a stroke left her with Locked In Syndrome.
In June, she moved into the new State Government accommodation at Parkside, made up of four houses with two bedrooms to accommodate residents from Highgate Park.
Tracey said her life had been transformed by her move.
“I am approaching each day with excitement about all the opportunities I have. I’ve recently started part-time employment. I am so happy,” said Tracey.
Minister Lensink said the Parkside property had been purpose built with input from disability and health services, specifically for people with high needs.
“The houses have individual living spaces and accessible ensuites, giving residents their own personal space – something they haven’t had for many years,” said Minister Lensink.
Minister Lensink said Highgate Park had a long and proud history of caring for people with significant disabilities.
“Any decision on the future of the site once Highgate Park has closed will be made in consultation with the community and meet the trust’s objectives to benefit people with disability,” said Minister Lensink.
“The Home for Incurables Trust owns the site and I, as the Minister for Human Services, am the sole trustee.”
The Department of Human Services will work with people with disability and other community stakeholders to prepare a business case for the future for the Highgate Park site that will be in the best interests of the trust.
If you would like to be informed or involved in the development of the business case, register your interest at www.dhs.sa.gov.au/highgatepark