Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Is Dennis Ferguson More Important Than Pensioners?

For many weeks now, I have been receiving correspondence from a public housing tenant who has a number of unresolved maintenance issues. The reason they are unresolved is that she suffers from a number of psychological disorders including extreme social anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and depression. These ailments have been verified by at least two clinical psychologists who have provided written statements to the housing department, and copies of which I have received. These extreme disorders result in her inability to cope with the intrusion of strangers coming into her home to carry out the required repairs.

Having once been temporarily relocated to a motel while a bath was replaced, this public housing tenant is requesting the same relocation procedure again to allow the repairs to take place. Others, including church social workers, council officers, and even a senior federal politician have made representations on her behalf. I have been advised by representatives of the department that the nature of the repairs is such that any temporary relocation is not warranted, which may well be true, but completely ignores the mental health issues which are involved. I have been advised that the department cannot justify spending taxpayers’ money on providing motel accommodation for this tenant.

To be fair to the department, numerous attempts have been made to obtain entry to assess and carry out the repairs. The tenant has on some occasions refused entry because of her psychological condition. It would seem, however, that at some point it would actually be more cost effective to provide the temporary accommodation and finalise the repairs, rather than waste money on repeatedly engaging contractors who are prevented from carrying out their work. Or perhaps it is the principle of the matter which is at stake. Perhaps, the department officials who have decided that temporary relocation is a waste of taxpayers’ money are simply refusing to back down.

We know that the repairs need to be done. We know that the department temporarily relocated the tenant on a previous occasion, and that despite promises that the bathroom repairs would be completed while she was away, it was left half done. We know that despite repeated representations, the matter has not been resolved. We know that the mental health issues are genuine. And that is the crucial point. Despite recommendations from mental health experts, the department has indicated that it will seek to obtain an order from the Consumer Trader And Tenancy Tribunal to force access. Surely, such a step is tantamount to torture for an individual suffering from such severe psychological disabilities.

On the other hand, we have now learned that the infamous convicted paedophile Dennis Ferguson has been accommodated by Housing New South Wales at an address in Ryde. Local residents have been outraged that not only has he been allowed to live in their area, close to schools and surrounded by families, but that he has done so with the assistance of taxpayers’ money. They are wondering why taxpayers’ money should be spent on accommodating a reject from another state who is a known danger to the community. And yet, that’s the same taxpayer’s money that the department won’t spend on assisting a pensioner with severe mental health problems and a toilet that leaks all over the floor.

I can’t help but wonder just where the taxpayers of New South Wales would prefer their money to be spent.

No comments: