Page 5907 - Week 18 - Wednesday, 11 December 1991

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Respite Care

MRS NOLAN: My question is addressed to Mr Connolly in his capacity as Minister for Community Services. I refer him to an article in today's Canberra Times, at page 3, which refers to Respite Care which visits the frail elderly and the young disabled for several hours each week to give their usual carers some relief. I understand that the waiting list is of between 30 and 40 in both these categories. What is the Minister going to do about this situation, given that over the holiday period there is going to be a very great necessity for some respite care for carers?

MR CONNOLLY: Mr Speaker, the position of this service, along with a number of other services funded under the home and community care program, certainly gives me no great joy. The ACT Government has been able to maintain funding and provide growth funds for these programs roughly in accordance with the current rate of inflation, at 2.9 per cent. So, we have been able to insulate this program from cuts and from the general reduction in the size of overall ACT expenditure, which I think across the whole of government is something like 4.5 per cent. The Chief Minister and Treasurer was commended a week or so ago by the Commonwealth Government for the responsible way in which the ACT has faced its significant reduction in Commonwealth revenue.

In the context of a very tight budget, holding the program in real terms is as much as we have been able to do. I am not happy about the fact that waiting lists are growing. No HACC program has ever been intended to be a sort of supply on demand program. It has never been intended that HACC programs would be able to meet every demand that is placed upon them. All HACC programs are now looking at the way they provide their services, the way in which they allocate priorities and the way in which they provide a service either totally free or subject to some charge, whether it be means tested or otherwise. It is an area in which, if we had more money, we could do more, no doubt. The HACC programs have been in place only since about 1987. The awareness in the community continues to grow, and the growth in recent years has been quite significant.

All we have been able to do this year is maintain the program in real terms. The Commonwealth has held out the carrot of additional funds to these services if the ACT Government can match those additional funds; but, as I was reported as having said in the paper this morning, it is something of a two-card trick because the Commonwealth, which has dramatically reduced ACT revenues by cutting us off at the knees with our general grants, taking a large wad of money out of our back pocket, is dangling a few dollars in front of us and saying, "If you can match this,

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