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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2303 ..

While government, as the funder of many ACT community services, is encouraging services to improve their efficiency in the delivery of their services, these services are struggling to sustain their service, their staff and their morale.

The committee did not, however, make any recommendations about additional funding to address sector viability. And I am worried that just saying “strengthening the community” may not be sufficient; we need to see the resources there. The community sector is suffering from the same staff shortages, skills shortages, as the government is. It cannot offer as high wages as the government; it is often working with really substandard equipment in leaky rooms, dark rooms, cold rooms, hot rooms. Yet those people are there because they care. And that means that they can, just like the parents of people with a disability, get screwed.

Close to finally, I want to talk about SAAP. We keep bringing this up here and we keep being told that there were no beds lost and the agencies are now efficient. But we keep hearing stories that the services can no longer offer the same level of service they used to. The beds are still there, sure, but the time and effort given to families and individuals in crisis are not what they once were because the organisations are not funded to provide them anymore.

One of the questions on notice, to which I am still awaiting a response, was about the community engagement manual and how it is being implemented across government. Given the current government’s track record on consultation, I would be interested to see how the minister’s office responds. And it is a pity the answer did not arrive before this debate.

The budget funding for disability and community services is an example of giving a little to an area that needs a lot. The initiatives and programs which have received ongoing or new funding are good, but more is needed because people cannot keep working on the smell of an oily rag.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (8.45): As I said yesterday, the Minister for Disability and Community Services gave generously of her time to the estimates committee. I think she was probably the star performer in the process in terms of making herself and officials available and candidly answering questions. It is a shame that there are a large number of questions on notice still outstanding. It makes it difficult for us to make a full summation of the budget initiatives without the answers to those questions. But I must pay tribute to the minister for the work that she did in the estimates process.

I would like to concentrate on some of the areas that cover my responsibilities in relation to children and family services. I would like to start in my electorate, if I may, and talk about the $845,000 over the life of the budget which is being allocated to UnitingCare Kippax for a range of services to fit in with and supplement the very important role that organisations like UnitingCare have in west Belconnen, which is amongst the most disadvantaged areas in the ACT.

I spoke about west Belconnen’s disadvantage yesterday in the health line item when we talked about the west Belconnen cooperative for a health and wellbeing clinic.

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