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Teen with autism forced to live in Bunbury hospital for more than three months after NDIS property eviction

A 17-year-old boy with autism spent 99 days in a country hospital after he was evicted from supported accommodation as a result of complaints about damage from the landlord and neighbours.  

Melissa Karati said her son Marley spent more than three months in Bunbury Hospital because no suitable accommodation could be found locally.

It came as parents of children living with disability said the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was failing its participants in some parts of regional Australia.

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the "critical lack" of supported accommodation in regional Australia was being urgently addressed.

'Quite inhumane'

Ms Karati said her non-verbal son was unable to live at home because of his complex disability which needed specialist care.

She said he had been "thrown back and forth between [NDIS] providers" for the past two years.

"All of the registered providers we've looked at so far have ... not met his needs," she said.

"They just thrown him back and forth. It's been quite inhumane." 

Ms Karati said the most recent care provider,  St Jude's, had terminated services in October with a few hours' notice.

"That was about nine or 10 in the morning and there was two hours' notice they were going to need to take Marley to hospital as he had been evicted from his home," she said.

$50,000 damage 

A spokeswoman for St Jude's NDIS rejected suggestions of inadequate notice. 

She said the service could not find alternative accommodation for Marley. 

"St Jude's was leasing the property and it was terminated by the landlord on the grounds of neighbours' complaints and excessive property damage by the client," she said. 

"The property damage was assessed in excess of $50,000."

She said suitable alternative housing could not be found or the service would have been happy to continue care.

"The client's family and all of his stakeholders were aware of the complex behaviours and concerns raised by neighbours, property damage, and landlord in regard to breach and eviction notices served for several months leading up to the eviction," she said.

"St Jude's remained committed to supporting any transition to alternate suitable housing."

Disproportionate number of complaints 

The inability to find suitable care for Marley close to home follows the case of Ryan Croft who spent months in hospital because of difficulty finding suitable care workers.

Busselton man Mitchell Pearce died in hospital in August while waiting for NDIS care.

NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commissioner Tracy Mackey visited Bunbury last week. 

She said she was aware of complaints regarding Marley O'Meara, which were being looked at.

Ms Mackey said there were a high number of complaints from the region.

"We're conscious that the South West can be a thin market — with perhaps not the full array of services are available that might be available in Perth," she said. 

"The South West has a disproportionately high number of complaints, in comparison to Perth." 

Ms Mackey said the NDIS was aware of the difficulties in providing care for people with complex needs.

"Sometimes they're the ones that need the most support in terms of ensuring that their rights are really looked after and that people aren't compromising them treating them as a commodity, rather than a person who has rights," she said.

'A critical lack' 

WA Country Health Services said Bunbury Hospital staff went "above and beyond" to care for Marley, who had since moved to supported accommodation in Perth. 

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten said the National Disability Insurance Agency was working closely with Marley's family. 

"A critical lack of supported accommodation in regional Australia is being urgently addressed by the Commonwealth alongside states and territories, with southern western Australia one of many areas that needs attention," he said.

"We continue to work with Western Australia's Disability Minister Don Punch."

He said NDIS participants were now waiting an average of 33 days to be discharged from hospital, compared to 160 days in May 2022.

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