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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4323 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

The shameful and destructive breaking up of the social networks of these elderly aged people, who are unable, in the main, to argue for themselves, has led me to place my motion on the notice paper. I want proper consultation with relevant people and organisations who are affected and who know about these things. I also want this Assembly to have the opportunity to be involved in the final decision on what I regard as a very important social issue for people who, in the main, are unable to speak for themselves because of their age and their incapacity. I would urge the Assembly to support this motion.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (9.17): Mr Speaker, the government will not be supporting Mr Cornwell's motion. It is a pity that the opposition, and I think to some extent the media, have portrayed this issue falsely-that they have created a false picture in relation to what is happening to aged day-care services.

The government has not closed any aged day-care services. The decision to relocate ACT Community Care aged day-care services from Narrabundah and Dickson to Tuggeranong and Belconnen was made as a result of a review of services, which recommended that we should better target those age-care clients most at need and thereby improve the outcomes for clients and their carers. Nevertheless, this was an extremely difficult decision and one that I considered carefully.

I have already reviewed the services and I am now adopting the recommendation to relocate services. The relocation of these aged day-care centres will have a number of positive outcomes. These include: better targeting of services to ensure that care is available for older people with high-care or dementia respite needs; longer opening hours; improved access to allied health services such as physiotherapy, nutrition, occupational therapy, nursing services and podiatry; a specific focus on respite for carers, dementia assessment and appropriate support of treatment programs; and a safer environment for older people and staff.

I have released the Review of aged day care centre program, which was conducted by ACT Community Care and completed in March this year. All members have been sent a copy. The release of the review continues the government's commitment to an open and transparent government. The review made recommendations for the future direction of these services. The findings of the review included the need for ACT Community Care to provide services to clients who required high levels of care, especially those who could no longer be supported in other community sector aged day-care programs.

Members need to understand the special role that public sector health services play in our community, and this really is the nub of the matter. We have the responsibility to take on the most difficult cases and the most serious problems, because we have the most highly trained and skilled staff and because of our connection to the broader network of health services. The government is always, as a provider, the last port of call. As the needs of the "sharp end"of aged care become greater, as we have more people with complex needs such as dementia, we have a responsibility to step up to the line and meet the challenge. We have a responsibility to adjust our services according to where the need is greatest.

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