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Kimberley From A Parent's Perspective

As a parent of a very high needs Kimberley resident, I want to give you my point of view.

I have been a volunteer for IHC since 1970, and was a psychopaedic nurse before that. My degree is in Sociology, and I have post grad qualifications in Rehab Studies and Social Work.

One argument used for the closure of Kimberley is that 'The people living in Kimberley have rights as citizens of NZ and should be allowed to live in the community with the support they require'. To simply divide care into 'the community' and 'institutional' is far too basic. Kimberley has been part of the Levin community for decades. People can be just as isolated in a small house with half a dozen others plus unsupported staff.

It is said that 'Institutions such as Kimberley which promote the out-of-sight out of mind philosophy are extremely out dated'. I have never felt that Kimberley has this philosophy. The residents and Levin people interact regularly, with visits from Levin people for entertainment and personal befriending, and outings by the residents to cafes, the beach and other places. I make a point of visiting without prior arrangement, and have always found Richard the others in an excellent state of care.

I brought Richard up at home until he was a teenager. He, and I, were isolated and largely unsupported. We were both stressed and miserable. My other 3 children came to resent him as the centre of their mother's universe. He caused untold damage to our house, our relationships with friends and our marriage. We loved him, but couldn't give him the care and training he desperately needed.

It is also said that 'It has also been proved time and time again that once people are living in the community their self esteem and skills improve at a great pace because of the opportunities surrounding them'. When Richard first went to Kimberley he lived in Guy House, where he made excellent progress and achieved small miracles. After that closed his progress stopped. He is now in need of close monitoring and daily medical interventions. His twin, a nurse, assures me that to allow a non health professional to do these tasks would be dangerous.

I want Richard to stay in Kimberley, and the services there to be improved, because A: He has his needs met by trained staff familiar with his idiosyncrasies. B: These staff are supported by other staff and have regular breaks and shift changes. C: Although the facilities are run down, there are onsite clinics, recreation activities and social and spiritual facilities. D: Richard LIKES IT THERE. The place is familiar, he knows what to expect. He is familiar with the smells, sounds and movements. E: I have been involved in residential houses and day bases run by IHC, and I have seen largely untrained and unsupported staff out of their depth and highly stressed, lacking sleep, trying to run after several clients at once, unable to get time to eat, unable to take time out. That's not good enough for Richard's care and protection.

Yes, Richard has all the rights of a citizen. These rights are not taken from them at Kimberley. They have regular outings, meals out, drives to all kinds of places, visitors and activities. They are protected and supported and helped to live to their full potential. We as parents and legal guardians have the duty to insist that they get excellent care and are protected from fickle political decisions based on saving money.

I also have a foster sister with similar disabilities who was brought up by my parents after being abused as a baby by another set of foster parents. She was placed in an IHC home after their deaths, and it proved to be a traumatic adjustment for her. Her first placement was completely unsatisfactory because of poor care, and she had to be moved to another town. Her skills and self esteem have been minimal since the deaths of her beloved parents, and her favourite pastime is talking to her (dead) father on a toy telephone.

I am convinced that IHC wants the closure because it sees a huge cash cow coming its way. IHC has almost no competition when it comes to claiming Kimberley's residents. I have no choice about the group who will take Richard. IHC is not good enough to care for my son.

Richard is not 'like us'. He is special, and needs special facilities and treatment. I want for him what I want for my other children; the best lifestyle NZ can offer.

Jude Marshall ph 06 3584875


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