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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (15 February) . . Page.. 209 ..

Health and Community Care-Standing Committee

Inquiry into elder abuse

MR QUINLAN (10.39): I move:

That the resolution of the Assembly of 11 May 2000, as amended on 30 November 2000, which referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Community Care the prevalence of elder abuse for inquiry and report, be amended by inserting after "options to prevent elder abuse" the words "including unreasonable financial demands for accommodation,".

Several members in this place have been lobbied by residents of a particular retirement village regarding quite significant changes in the financial arrangements that are being imposed by management. I have met with the residents, as have a couple of other members in this place, Mr Speaker, including you, I understand. I have also of recent times met with the management of the particular village, and I have been in touch with the Office of Fair Trading in the ACT to ensure that the matter is being handled in a sensible fashion.

I do not think it is necessary to drag the name of the retirement village into this debate, but it is clear that a great variety of arrangements are set in place for residents who spend their life savings to buy into a retirement village. Those life savings are forfeit as time elapses during their stay in that village, so that neither they nor their estate can recover the full price paid for that residence. There are various arrangements as to whether capital gains are included in the recovery on disposal of a unit, and there are corporate fees and an agreement on facilities that will be provided.

Virtually all of those questions are open to debate in this case. The Office of Fair Trading have informally advised that the code of practice that governs these arrangements is relatively new. It has been in place for a year and a half or so and may need review.

I have looked at the various arrangements that can be made and the various facilities that are provided for corporate fees. I live in a town house development and pay corporate fees, so I have some idea of what the prices should be. I think there is room for the committee to look at this matter in a rational way, to look for a greater degree of consistency and a greater degree of protection for residents of retirement villages against sudden change.

For some people in a village, it may be quite cheap and a good deal, but unless they are aware that circumstances could change dramatically overnight, they may commit all their resources to a unit and then find it difficult to sustain themselves and maintain their position in that village. At the same time they are captive because, by virtue of the contract, they have forfeited some of their life savings, to the point where they would probably be unable to find anything like that accommodation anywhere else.

There is a need to review this matter and to ensure that there is a structure to protect people from this ex post change. Should there be any ex post change, there should also be some protection to ensure that it is implemented on a phased basis or a gradual basis so that people do not fall short of basic needs because of insufficient disposable income. I commend the motion to the house.

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