By Luke Voogt
Nicholas Fox was ready to finally start living independently, with supervision, after his family found him a “wonderful” home and moved from Ballarat to Armstrong Creek to support his dream.
“I want to get the chance to move out and get my own place to live,” he told the Independent.
But a bureaucratic nightmare has left the 19-year-old autistic man, who also has a moderate intellectual disability, “in limbo”, according to stepmother Danielle Maughan.
“His knowledge of geography, science, trains, animals and flags of the world is incredible,” she said
“But it’s the day-to-day living where he needs significant support.
“He’s got no sense of budgeting or the value of money, or knowing when to get groceries. He’s got no idea where to start.”
Nicholas struggles with getting around, social interactions and unexpected situations, according to Ms Maughan.
Multiple behavioural and psychological assessments, seen by the Independent, indicate Nicholas would struggle living alone but would benefit from supported independent living (SIL).
In May the family found a “wonderful” SIL home in Torquay run by Encompass Community Services with two other residents.
“Immediately all three young men got along wonderfully,” Ms Maughan said.
“It was as if it was meant to be.”
“I was really excited,” Nicholas added.
The family submitted an application to the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) through Encompass before moving to Armstrong Creek.
“From their experience of running SIL, they thought it would be a couple of weeks to get approval from the NDIA,” Ms Maughan said.
“There shouldn’t have been any doubt at all because all the experts supported the need.
“Nobody saw this being declined.”
But in July an NDIA representative phoned to advise Nicholas did “not satisfy the requirement for SIL accommodation”, Ms Maughan said.
According the agency, he had the capacity to source his own private rental or shared accommodation with “pop-in” support, she said.
“That kind of stung,” Nicholas said.
“The fact that they declined it and said I couldn’t move in is really unfair.”
“I need supervision when I’m cooking and I can’t go shopping by myself. I can’t do it alone – I need some help.”
“We were gutted,” said Nicholas’s dad and Ms Maughan’s partner Damien Fox.
“We moved here to have Nicolas’s furniture ready to move into that house and so we could be close,” Mr Fox said.
“Encompass have been fantastic. They said we were right to keep Nicholas’s items there until this is sorted, but they can’t do that forever.”
Ms Maughan phoned the NDIA throughout August demanding a written explanation for the rejection, and said she received different information.
Just weeks ago, an NDIA representative informed her that the original application “had never been processed”, she said.
“It’s just unacceptable,” she said.
“Nicholas is the one that’s suffering.”
Ms Maughan has launched an online petition in hope of securing SIL for her stepson, which has gathered more than 680 signatures.
“I want to move in straight away and get started,” Nicholas said.
An NDIA spokesperson said the agency was generally unable to comment on individual cases due to privacy issues.
“However it is important to note the NDIA continues to provide a significant level of funding for disability-related support to Mr Fox, and is working with his support network to ensure Nicholas has the disability-related supports he needs – including identifying appropriate living options,” they said.