THE state government will relocate Riverside Centre residents to eight new group homes in Orange and two in Bathurst, abandoning more than two years of planning for homes at the Bloomfield health campus.
A $10 million development to build six group homes for residents with mental and physical disabilities, near the current centre, was withdrawn by Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) at the eleventh hour on Tuesday when it was expected to be approved by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP).
ADHC executive director of contemporary residential options John Ryan said the decision to re-house all 47 Riverside residents in community-based group homes was made three weeks ago, but the trend away from congregated housing had been emerging for two years.
“Research shows it does produce infinitely better outcomes for them to have their own home,” he said.
The $10 million will be redirected to the off-site homes, along with an additional $20 million the government has already committed.
“[The current Riverside Centre] is not accommodation we’d be really proud of as world’s best practice,” Mr Ryan said.
“The residents only have partitioned bedrooms so they don’t have the maximum amount of privacy ... it’s a fairly confronting environment.
“Because Riverside doesn’t meet the required standards, when we get a vacancy we can’t fill it.”
Years of wrangling with other government departments including the Office of Environment and Heritage and the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) finally reached a resolution when ADHC agreed to set aside 10 hectares of endangered bushland when building the six homes at Bloomfield.
But Mr Ryan said the environmental and heritage issues for the site were still “quite significant”.
“We wouldn’t have been able to deliver it for a long time because of the planning approval we would have had to do,” he said.
With backyards, kitchens and laundries, the group homes scattered around Orange and Bathurst will give the residents a more domestic and homelike environment, Mr Ryan said.
“It’s closer to more modern disability practice,” he said.
Residents and their families will be consulted about their needs before they are relocated.
Riverside staff will be able to work at the group homes, but more staff will also be needed.
Decision three years in the making
* 2010 - The former Labor state government announces a $30 million, three-year redevelopment of the centre to relocate its then-69 residents to a 30-bed facility on the Bloomfield campus and community-based homes, but only commits $3.1 million to the purchase of land behind the hospital.
* September 2011 - The new state government allocates $11.75 million to the redevelopment: $9.5 million for the 30-bed centre, $1.6 million for 10-bed accommodation and $600,000 for a five-bed group home. Later in the month a development application (DA) is lodged for six group homes worth $10 million.
* November 2011 - Environmentalists object to the proposal because the land is home to the endangered black sallee tree and the superb parrot. The NSW Heritage Council refuses to consider the DA until NSW Health develops a master plan for future development.
* June 2012 - The state government commits $25 million to the Riverside redevelopment.
* October 2013 - ADHC decides to scatter the group homes in the community. One in east Orange is finished, another two in north Orange are nearing completion, but ADHC is still looking for five semi-rural locations for the other homes.
A decision is yet to be made on the future of the existing Riverside Centre.