destruction of a family

Minister Mary Wooldridge - Missing in Action

24 November 2014

This is our beautiful son, James.

What is wrong with him you may ask? Nothing - unless the Department of Human Services can be classified as a disease.

Our son has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Despite our attempts to protect him throughout his life, the authorities we entrusted with his care have caused him trauma throughout his life. From being locked in an empty courtyard at Bulleen Heights School, to being shackled in a hospital, James has rarely had the benefit of the expertise our health system, disability system and school system claim.

In September 2013, from sheer exhaustion due to the lack of support from DHS, we asked DHS to accommodate James. At the end of August 2014, still without permanent accommodation, DHS told us that at the end of the week the house he was staying at would close and he would be transferred to a house that we had already deemed unsuitable. When we objected, DHS gave us three days notice that they would be bringing James home. Three days notice of a major life change for a person with severe Autism. Three days notice for parents who both worked and had to prepare a house.

Did DHS support the transfer? DHS immediately applied for guardianship of James. The reason? Had there ever been any criticisms of the level of care provided by us? No. DHS simply reacted like children, because we disagreed with their decision. Realising they had made a mistake, they withdrew the guardianship order, and instead simply withheld, once more, the support James and we needed in order for him to have a successful placement. Another parent had already rejected the same house as being unsuitable for their daughter, and DHS had also applied for a guardianship order over their child. This seems to simply be a standard response of victimisation against parents who don't disagree with their decisions.

James’ support was completely inadequate. We warned DHS in writing repeatedly that James was self injuring, so destabilised due to the different staff members sent in that he was becoming more distressed as time went on. We warned DHS again and again, in writing, that the placement would break down if they failed to support James adequately. After having to give up employment to stay at home, reducing our income, increase our expenses in order to supervise carers adequately, and after being brought to depths of exhaustion and despair we could not imagine, we gave up, as did James.

James was returned to DHS "care" for respite, and within a short time found himself handcuffed and in hospital. This is where he continues to be.The DHS response? While our family was being brought to their knees, DHS staff from Northern Division, Preston simply sat back, ignored our e-mails of distress and waited for the placement to fail.

The psychological and physical injuries sustained by all members of the family were and are, of no interest to them. 

We keep a vigil over James in hospital to try and lessen his distress. DHS refuse to fund his care.

James will be 21 years old on Wednesday.

Bronwyn and Allan Pascoe


In September 2014, it was reported that DHS refused to release data revealing the number of sexual and physical assault incident reports that have been filed in Victoria's disability care system during the past four years.

Families with members who have disabilities and who choose to live together, have the same rights as other families to do so. Given the abuse in state care presided over by DHS and their funded contractors, it is important that families who want to protect their members from such abuse are supported to do so.

It is clear that under Minister Wooldridge, DHS has no accountability whatsoever, and the secrecy surrounding deaths and abuse in state-run homes cannot be defended.

Minister Wooldridge does not deserve to have our trust, or the responsibility for the care of our most marginalised members of the community. Think about this when you vote.

If you want to see James Pascoe spend his 21st birthday at home with his family, rather than lying in a hospital bed, please help us. Send an e-mail to those responsible. Tell them to get James out,return him home and support him. We know this may take some of your time, but as a community we are one, and if we want change, we must support each other and act together.

Thank you.

Louise Ennis, Key Worker

Minister Mary Wooldridge