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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 3392 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

In conclusion - I am sorry to say it, but it is the case - many people with disabilities still do not have the same choices as others in the community. They are still discriminated against and carers are not adequately supported. One issue I would like to address briefly, because I probably dealt with the families that Mr Wood mentioned before and I also made representations on their behalf, is that, as a member, I found that an extremely difficult thing to do. When I have done this I have never done so lightly because I know that these people came to see me because I have influence. I have been able to get some assistance for them, but I am very painfully aware of the fact that I have probably caused someone else to go further down the queue. There are not enough services, many people are waiting and many people will not have the courage or knowledge to go and see a politician.

While I absolutely support the need for the Minister to step in, as he did, for those particular families, I also have a very uneasy feeling that there are many other people who are as desperate as those families and have not had the benefit of the Minister's intervention. That is why I think this is such a serious issue for the ACT Government, or for any government, because, when you see the reality of the situation of these people, you cannot help but respond. But these people are silent and there are many of them out in the community. That is why we need to see governments funding these services. These people are, by nature, vulnerable and they are probably not going to go and talk to politicians.

MR HARGREAVES (4.50): I rise to add my support to Mr Wood's comments on this particularly serious subject. I have been concerned for many years about how we as a society provide assistance to those who, due to a significant impairment, are disadvantaged. I will, for the moment, restrict my remarks to those concerning people with physical disability rather than an intellectual disability, although this latter group often suffer disadvantage in much the same way as the former.

There are a range of things that we, charged with the delivery of services, do not do that well. Disabled people have quite different housing needs from non-disabled people. I note that the public housing program does pay some attention to these difficulties, but perhaps the links with the specialist support organisations such as ACROD, the professional officers within the Department of Health and Community Care and representatives of disabled people and their carers could be strengthened.

We do not provide transport options for our disabled people very well at all. There is dispute in the taxi industry about just who should be able to carry disabled people. There are insufficient taxis, multicabs, in Canberra available for hire. Also, there are some vehicles which can adequately carry disabled passengers but cannot get the bookings. Why this is so is one of the mysteries of all time. I was pleased to see the introduction of midi-buses into the ACTION system. This goes some way towards assisting normalisation for the disabled. But, Mr Deputy Speaker, I was not impressed, as I have said in this place before, to hear that the dedicated disabled transport system for patients attending rehabilitation at the Canberra Hospital had been cut out, to be replaced by taxis - a saving of $300,000. What price can be put on patients' peer support available on those buses?

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