EDITORIAL MONDAY 21.09.09.
Last week I told you about the pensioner with severe psychological disorders who lives in a Housing New South Wales apartment which is in need of repair. There is a catalog of problems which require attention including a toilet which leaks water all over the floor, incomplete bathroom plumbing, a hole in the wall in the kitchen where the paneling has disintegrated exposing the electrical wiring behind it, doors and windows which do not open and close properly, as well as incomplete paintwork and refuse left over from previous efforts to make repairs. The substance of the tenant’s list of defects is broadly consistent with the report compiled by the department itself, although there is some variation in the assessment of the degree of severity and urgency of the work.
The reason that this repair work remains incomplete after more than a year of discussion is the range of mental health issues from which the tenant suffers. They include depression, social anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia. Independent psychological assessments have been provided to both the department and myself which indicate that the severity of the tenant’s condition makes it impossible for her to be present while contractors are admitted to the apartment to carry out the work. It might not seem a big deal to most of us, but independent medical experts have indicated that her distress is both genuine, and extreme, and has a corresponding impact on her physical health.
Last year, the department temporarily relocated the tenant to a motel so that the bath could be replaced. According to department guidelines, the nature of the work was such that it was considered that the premises would be unfit for habitation while it was undertaken. The tenant claims to have been told that all the necessary work would be completed in her absence, but apparently it was not. Ever since then she has been requesting another period of temporary relocation in order for the work to be completed. The position of the department is that the remaining work is not of a nature which would render the apartment unfit for habitation while it is carried out, and so according to the guidelines there is no justification for spending taxpayers’ money on motel accommodation for this tenant.
Last week, I suggested that this approach would appear to completely disregard the mental health issues in making such a decision, indicating perhaps a failure of guidelines to recognize or allow for such issues to be considered. I suggested that given the protracted nature of the affair it might actually be cheaper for taxpayers to grant the request for special consideration rather than waste more money on abortive attempts by contractors to gain entry while the tenant is in residence. I also wondered whether the taxpayers of New South Wales would prefer to spend their money helping to resolve this dilemma or to pay for the paedophile Dennis Ferguson to be accommodated in public housing, jumping the queue ahead of 39 000 desperate people who are still on the waiting list. Then I read the weekend papers.
On the weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald revealed that prior to being housed at the unit in Ryde which attracted so much attention last week, Dennis Ferguson was put up in a four star hotel for a period of two weeks. It struck me immediately that there is something seriously wrong with a system which will pay for Mr. Ferguson to have a two week holiday at taxpayers’ expense in four star luxury, while the poor old pensioner who has, to my knowledge, never broken any laws, can’t even be put up in the local motel for a couple of nights while essential repairs are carried out to her apartment. I’m pretty sure it is not what the taxpayers would want.