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Monday, 23 November 2015
Page: 13208


Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (11:16): I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that Meals on Wheels has a long and proud history of providing ready-made nutritious meals, as well as a friendly smile and a chat, through its dedicated network of volunteers since 1952;

(2) acknowledges that Meals on Wheels prides itself on providing 'More than just a meal'; and

(3) affirms that the ability of Meals on Wheels to provide meals along with trusted local community outreach is unparalleled, and is worthy of the recognition and continuing support of government.

Meals on Wheels is an iconic Australian organisation that has been supporting local communities for more than 60 years. The 15,000 volunteers in Queensland alone who make Meals on Wheels possible deliver nearly two million meals a year to more than 11,500 people with a wide variety of support needs.

Every single day in typical suburban streets right across Australia, thousands of Meals and Wheels volunteers provide not only meals but also support, care and friendship to some of our elderly, sick, frail and disabled neighbours. I am fortunate to have some of the best community-spirited volunteers working for Meals and Wheels in my electorate, including in the Western Suburbs, Kenmore, Ashgrove and Mitchelton organisations. When our bodies fail and it is difficult to go to the shops for groceries, that is when Meals on Wheels can step in. Independence is something we all value—and key to supporting people to stay in their homes when they become elderly and frail are services such as those provided by Meals on Wheels and their volunteers. The volunteers are absolutely diligent in supporting their clients, as they call them, and in turning up every day. Too often volunteers are seen as those glamorous people who work at events like the Olympic Games or the Commonwealth Games or major conferences, but it is the Meals on Wheels volunteers who turn up every day, every week and every month of every year—and they don't get the recognition and support that they so deserve. When a Meals on Wheels volunteer attends a client's home, they are not just delivering a meal; they are providing an invaluable service to someone in need, the community and the Australian taxpayer.

However, I do believe that the Australian government could do more to help these wonderful people who provide meals on wheels by doing less. Earlier this year, for example, I met with representatives of local Meals on Wheels groups who were concerned about changes made to the way prospective Meals on Wheels clients subscribe to their services. Members will recall that Meals on Wheels providers were originally responsible for assessing the eligibility of prospective clients, as well as preparing and delivering meals. This was a sensible and cost-effective arrangement for providers, the Australian government and the people who need this valuable community service. But from 1 July 2015, responsibility for eligibility assessment was given to another layer of bureaucracy and was absorbed into My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service, which has now been contracted out to 13 organisations and 75 subcontractor organisations for a fee. Prospective clients now have to contact the My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service via a call centre or web portal to have their eligibility determined, and this can take several months. Indeed, I heard recently of a local resident and it took three months.

How often is it that we have elderly parents and one has to go into hospital for a couple of weeks? And what you do is ring up your local Meals on Wheels and say: 'Mum's in hospital for a couple of weeks. Do you mind providing meals for dad?' They say: 'Sure, not a problem. We'll pop around and organise what sort of food he likes and get that happening.' They complete the paperwork and you can then concentrate on your other parent who may be unwell. But no longer is that going to be the case; prospective clients now have to contact the My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service and—at a time when we took to the last election our commitment to repeal unnecessary red tape—this now is actually what we're doing to Meals on Wheels. There is no need for another layer of bureaucracy between a Meals on Wheels volunteer and the elderly and the sick, frail and disabled who benefit from their services. More concerning is advice that one of the Meals on Wheels volunteers gave me: they had been contacted by a large supermarket chain who indicated that they understood that the government was going to tender for the service. Would their volunteers volunteer for them in the future if they won the contract?

Meals on Wheels is a wonderful service. It supports the elderly in their homes and it provides a social interaction and care for those people as well because, instead of just leaving the delivery at the door and hoping that someone remembers to pull it in at some stage, Meals on Wheels volunteers ensure that their client is not only accessing those meals but also eating them, and they check on the conditions at the home at the same time. I commend the Meals on Wheels volunteers and this motion to the House.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Craig Kelly ): Is the motion seconded?