Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2584 ..
There are currently 3,637 members of the ACT taxi subsidy scheme and the service is provided by the ACT at a cost of $420,000 a year. It had not been reviewed since 1990. The review was long overdue. We have consulted extensively with the people who use the service and the organisations which support them.
Three key changes will occur from 1 July. The subsidy will increase from the current 40 per cent of the taxi fare to at least 50 per cent. People with a disability who use wheelchairs will be subsidised for 75 per cent of the taxi fare. The 50 per cent subsidy will be available to people who currently have vouchers that extend beyond 1 July 2003, and these can be upgraded. People who use a wheelchair, or who need more vouchers, will need to complete a brief form to confirm their circumstances. Access to the higher subsidy, or additional vouchers, will then be available to those eligible individuals.
The second change affects the number of taxi trips per year for which an individual can receive a subsidy. Currently, people are subsidised for approximately 52 trips a year with the standard allocation of vouchers. Under the newer arrangements, this will more than double to 125 trips a year. This is a significant increase that will better enable people to meet their often complex travel needs. Extra vouchers will be available for special designated purposes.
The third change concerns the number of vouchers required for each leg of the trip. Where up to six vouchers are currently required, in the future only one voucher will need to be completed to gain the subsidy. That will be much appreciated by taxi drivers, among others. For individuals in wheelchairs, this voucher will also record the lift fee as well as the subsidised fare.
People in wheelchairs will further benefit by the introduction of a $7.50 lift fee for the drivers of the wheelchair-accessible taxis and that will be at a cost of $661,000 over four years. The new lift fee will ensure that people in wheelchairs will be given priority by the drivers. Also, they will no longer be required to pay for the time spent loading and offloading, thereby reducing the overall cost of a fare.
A publicity campaign will be implemented outlining the new arrangements and enhanced subsidies, including the distribution of a revised application form, an information brochure and newspaper advertisements. This campaign will be targeted at existing and potential users of the scheme, doctors, health professionals and key support people, as well as taxi companies.
Mr Speaker, because new technologies are becoming available, we are actively investigating avenues through which the subsidies could be recorded electronically. This could alleviate a good deal of the paperwork that people with disabilities experience with the voucher system.
Mr Speaker, I commend these changes to the taxi subsidy scheme and reaffirm this government's commitment to enhance services for people with a disability.
MR CORNWELL(3.52): Mr Speaker, I will be very brief. I just want to compliment the Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services for practising the openness