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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
SOCIAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO
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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Moore, Sen Claire
McLucas, Sen Jan
Seselja, Sen Zed
Smith, Sen Dean
Fifield, Sen Mitch
Peris, Sen Nova
Brown, Sen Carol
Siewert, Sen Rachel
Wright, Sen Penny
Polley, Sen Helen
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Siewert)
Ludlam, Sen Scott
Bernardi, Sen Cory
Fifield, Sen Mitch
Ms K Wilson
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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
(Senate-Thursday, 21 November 2013)
SOCIAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO
Social Security Appeals Tribunal
Department of Social Services
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Siewert)
Senator CAROL BROWN
Ms K Wilson
- Social Security Appeals Tribunal
HUMAN SERVICES PORTFOLIO
Department of Social Services
Senator CAROL BROWN
- Australian Hearing
- SOCIAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO
Content WindowCommunity Affairs Legislation Committee - 21/11/2013 - Estimates - SOCIAL SERVICES PORTFOLIO - Department of Social Services
Department of Social Services
Senator MOORE: Ms Hand, we now have the machinery-of-government process through the secretariat so I thank you for that bedtime reading. I have questions about staffing. We started with looking at the changes. I know it is difficult because the staffing in the last budget referred to FaHCSIA and now we are looking at the new department. You gave us the total number of staff now in the new DSS—can we get the staffing in each of the divisions.
Ms Hand : Certainly, but some of them will be very approximate because some of the transfers have not been completed.
Senator MOORE: Between the budget and now, have there been any redundancies in FaHCSIA?
Ms Hand : Since July we have had 38 voluntary redundancies from the former FaHCSIA.
Senator MOORE: What was the reason behind the voluntary redundancies?
Ms Hand : That varies. In a majority of cases the position is no longer needed.
Senator MOORE: You said earlier that the machinery of government changes were going through fairly well, and you also mentioned that the department is used to major changes and differences, and through the previous efficiency dividend process you have a process in place for dealing with staffing.
Ms Hand : Yes, we have a very good process that has worked very successfully for a number of years in the former FaHCSIA for managing any change. At the moment we have in place what we call a staffing strategy to make sure that we come in on budget at the end of the year. As I said to Senator Smith earlier, we are managing our budgets well and in terms of the efficiency dividends that were applied to the former FaHCSIA before the election, we obviously look first not at staffing areas to reduce expenditure but at non-staffing areas.
Senator MOORE: Do the numbers show that you have downsized through FaHCSIA in the last 12 months?
Ms Hand : I will go to the right brief.
Mr Pratt : While Ms Hand is looking for the information, with your indulgence I might explain our language. We keep using the term former FaHCSIA et cetera.
Senator MOORE: If you have a key I am happy to use it.
Mr Pratt : I thought I might tell you why we are doing this. It is significant for us within the Department of Social Services that our new department not be regarded as old FaHCSIA with a few extra things bolted on. In fact what has happened is that with the exception of a small number of staff who have transferred to us from Prime Minister's department, every other person in social services is in fact a person transferring from a former department whether it is FaHCSIA, the former Department of Health and Ageing, the former Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the former DEEWR, the former industry et cetera. That is why we keep using this sort of clumsy language. We do not regard FaHCSIA minus Indigenous affairs as the critical mass of the department. In fact there were probably fewer than 2,000 people from former FaHCSIA remaining with social services, and almost 2,000 people will come to us from other departments. So it is quite a new department.
Senator MOORE: Mr Pratt, what are those figures—2,000 from the former FaHCSIA, and, Ms Hand, you gave us the approximate current numbers now—
Mr Pratt : My assessment—and this is not final because, just simply, we have not finished the machinery of government—is that probably we will end up with between 3½ thousand and 3,700 FTE, which will translate into a little bit under 4,000 people. That is, of course, because of the part-time effect and so forth. But that is yet to be determined. So I was saying that in terms of the contributing departments, roughly two-thirds of the former FaHCSIA moved to social services—
Senator MOORE: So you do not want to have happen what happened to the old CES people when they were swallowed by other departments?
Mr Pratt : No. What I want to have happen is that everyone in social services understands that they are creating a new department.
Senator MOORE: A new entity. We still refer to the 'former' department at this stage—is that so?
Mr Pratt : Yes.
Senator MOORE: And I have been getting that right?
Mr Pratt : Hopefully, we have been getting that right—that is more to the point.
Senator MOORE: I have been trying very hard.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you provide the committee with a document that describes the former FaHCSIA with all the outcomes and with the activities and the staff associated with that, much the same as in the way you provided the new organisational structure? Then could you also provide the explanation of the people who are coming in from the various other former agencies—how many there are and the functions that are being transferred—and also an explanation of who is coming out—for example, those people across to PM&C, how many there were and their function? I tried to draw a little table up and it is beyond me. but I am sure that there is someone in the department who could do that for me.
Mr Pratt : Senator, I think that is what we were intending to give you as part of that mapping exercise. It will pretty much follow the general comments I made right at the beginning about what is coming in and what is going out. We will do that.
Senator MOORE: At the same time as you are forming the entity of DSS, we have had the information, which is public, about the expectation of the government to make savings across the public sector. Numbers have been bandied around in the media and, as we were talking with the Department of Health last night, that can be very damaging as people read these numbers in the paper and hear about them on television. But in terms of your process, is it working through the Commission of Audit process, which is the mechanism on top of rebuilding a department to look at the expectation of budgets into the future?
Mr Pratt : No. Primarily budgets into the future will be determined by the machinery of government and then future government decisions. Certainly we will be providing information to the Commission of Audit, but I expect that in terms of its operations, it will be looking at higher-level issues rather than our budget and how we, as a new department, are funded.
Senator MOORE: Have you been requested by the Commission of Audit to provide the information back to them about your department and what is going on?
Mr Pratt : Not to my recollection. Certainly the Commission of Audit, I understand, will be interested in our views around programs and the number of agencies in the portfolio and things like that, but it is not my impression that they are looking, for example, at the number of staff in DSS.
Senator MOORE: In other departments with which we have spoken there has been a process where a letter has gone from the Commission of Audit asking about numerous things, about what they were going to do in their department, and from evidence last night—which you can see in the Hansard—the Department of Health has got a process of going back through their divisions asking about potential savings within each of the divisions and having that fed into a larger process. You have not got a similar model operating?
Mr Pratt : We are constantly doing that sort of exercise, to look at where we can find efficiencies. It is not simply for the purposes of the Commission of Audit, though; it is—
Senator MOORE: Ongoing.
Mr Pratt : It is an ongoing process of making sure that we are managing our budget properly.
Senator MOORE: So you do not have any officer or group of people working on the Commission of Audit response?
Mr Pratt : Yes, we do.
Senator MOORE: Does that involve staffing issues?
Mr Pratt : It may touch on staffing issues but, in terms of our present numbers of staff and what we will get as a result of the machinery-of-government change, that is a level of detail which I doubt will be covered off in any input we make to the Commission of Audit.
Senator MOORE: So there has been no discussion at any level about a number that you may be required to meet within the new DSS—no discussion of numbers that you would need to meet for the audit process?
Mr Pratt : Not in relation to the Commission of Audit process, but certainly in relation to what we anticipate might be our final budget once we have gone through machinery of government and then how that will translate into the amount of staff we are able to fund.
Senator MOORE: Within that, is that then not handled through the group of staff—and I note Ms Bennett has come to the table, so there must be some link there—through the audit process but done more under Ms Hand's area, through HR?
Mr Pratt : That is right.
Senator MOORE: With the figures that we have heard—and they are a large number—in terms of your department, how is the process operating in your department to look at how you meet your budget requirements, taking into account the changes that have happened with your structure? I would expect, from a department of the size of the new DSS, that it would have to meet some budget requirements in the overall savings in the public sector. How is that being done?
Ms Hand : It goes back to what I was saying earlier. We are in the midst of setting the department's operating budget. We have a fairly good understanding of the operating budgets that will come from the other agencies that now make up DSS. We believe—but, again, it is an approximate number—that our departmental budget for DSS will be just over $600 million for this year, and we believe that between now and the end of the financial year we may need to lose or reduce by 250 to 300 staff, but that is very approximate.
Senator MOORE: And that is based purely on budget? That is what you are working with in figures and projections, and you would expect, with the experience you have had over so many years, it to be about 250 to 300?
Ms Hand : Yes, and it is a little bit more scientific than that—forgive me.
Senator MOORE: I kind of hope so.
Ms Hand : People coming in from all departments already had set their budgets for the financial year and had a good understanding of how they would achieve those, which included a range of measures including staff reductions. So we are developing a holistic picture of that and, based on the work that we have done to date, we believe it will be in the vicinity of 250 to 300.
Senator MOORE: So do you have unfunded positions?
Ms Hand : Each agency, including DSS, has a budget which will include the efficiency dividend that has been allocated to that agency. So we need to work out how we live within our means. One of the strategies to live within our means is reducing staff, because obviously that is a large proportion of our operational budget, and, based on that, that is where the 250 to 300 figure comes from.
Senator MOORE: You would have programs that are seasonal, too, would you not, in terms of your allocation? I have not looked at them all, but there would be some retiring programs, or whatever they call them.
Ms Hand : That very much depends on policy and government priorities. Obviously, what we are doing in the corporate areas and in the department as a whole is saying: policy and program aside, are there things that we can stop doing or we can do better—streamline or re-engineer our business processes, merge sections and teams; those sorts of things—to make us a better way of operating internally?
Senator MOORE: I asked you earlier for the numbers including contractors. I asked for the number of contractors that you have, and you have a few, I know. I would like to get the number of contractors and the number of non-ongoing staff that you currently have across your areas. If we can get those, that will be very useful.
Ms Hand : We can give you the non-ongoing numbers now.
Senator MOORE: That would be great.
Mr Reddel : At the moment, as of 30 September, in the former FaHCSIA, we have a total of 197 non-ongoing staff, which includes part time and full time.
Senator MOORE: Do you have that cut down into central office and regions?
Mr Reddel : I do. I can provide that detail. In terms of the national office, the total as of 30 September of the former FaHCSIA was 117 non-ongoing staff.
Senator MOORE: And the rest would be regional?
Mr Reddel : In terms of the network, that was 80.
Senator MOORE: That is the former FaHCSIA?
Mr Reddel : Only former FaHCSIA.
Senator MOORE: That would include Indigenous services and the part of the Office for Women that you lost?
Mr Reddel : Yes.
Senator MOORE: I know you have not got the numbers yet from the people that you are acquiring, but can we put on notice that we want to have the same degree of detail with the people that you are acquiring when you get the full new DSS, as of—Mr Pratt, what would a reasonable date be to ask 'as of then'?
Mr Pratt : I think within our reporting requirements we should be able to do it—24 January was when we have to have answers, so we would expect to have it then.
CHAIR: That is excellent.
Senator MOORE: That is just aspirational.
CHAIR: Don't tell them that!
Senator MOORE: By 24 January we should be confident in talking about the new DSS as a functioning whole?
Mr Pratt : It is not entirely within Social Services' control, because there are still those sections, section 72 and section 32 determinations, to go through, but at this stage I would think that most of that should be done before Christmas.
Senator MOORE: Mr Pratt, on the figures that Mr Reddel has told us about the non-ongoing employees—and I apologise; I looked at the media this morning and saw a headline about all departments being asked about their contractors—has your department been given any request about the number of non-ongoing staff or contractors and advice that they would have to cease?
Mr Pratt : Not to my knowledge. Certainly, in terms of the guidelines about future recruitment, there is an indication that we need to look very closely at whether or not we extend non-ongoing contracts, but we are able to do so where I certify that that is necessary.
Senator MOORE: You may have seen the discussion we had with Health last night. In their process they are identifying a number of people for whom their current funding is not available, and they are looking at creating a unit, a group, that is surplus to requirements under the current budget but looking at them being able to be redeployed as required. Is there any concept of such a model in your department?
Mr Pratt : No, we do not have an equivalent to what I understand is called the business service centre. Certainly, in terms of some parts of the reform work we have been doing over the last 18 months or two years around rationalising our grants administration, we have had a number of people come to a temporary task force. They are working on that, and then they will either return to their home area or be redeployed elsewhere in the department.
Senator MOORE: That is all within your department at this stage?
Mr Pratt : Yes.
Senator MOORE: There has been no model of deploying into outside agencies?
Mr Pratt : None comes to mind, but of course if there was—
Senator MOORE: People make their own decisions to transfer.
Mr Pratt : Yes, that is right.
Senator MOORE: But, in terms of the department making a decision that they would redeploy staff from what was FaHCSIA to another agency—and I dare not name one—and that there would be a redeployment process, no formal current redeployment processes have been put in place?
Mr Pratt : Leaving aside the machinery-of-government process, no.
Senator MOORE: Your graduate program? You have always had a very large graduate program in your department. Are you having one next year?
Mr Pratt : We are continuing our graduate program.
Senator MOORE: And the numbers?
Mr Reddel : We anticipate 62—
Senator MOORE: 62 graduates.
Mr Reddel : This is both the former FaHCSIA and the incoming agencies—
Senator MOORE: For DSS?
Mr Reddel : For the new DSS.
Senator MOORE: You cannot answer for the other parts of the department, but how many did FaHCSIA have last year?
Mr Pratt : It was somewhere around that amount, I think—probably 60 or so.
Mr Reddel : Seventy-seven.
Senator MOORE: Seventy-seven last year—that is within an area.
Mr Reddel : With the former FaHCSIA.
Senator MOORE: I know you have services available to people going through the stress of the restructure. There is a process within DSS for staff to be able to be supported through decisions of changes?
Ms Hand : It is quite comprehensive. We have very regular communication about the changes, first to the senior executive service officers so that they can communicate with their people well, and to all staff in general, of course. If there is a particular change in a particular area, we will obviously have more targeted and face-to-face engagement. If it is needed, we also have the usual things like employee counselling and those sorts of things, as we would with any change happening.
Senator MOORE: And negotiation with the unions?
Ms Hand : Yes. Ms Burns might know.
Senator MOORE: You are in charge of change management, Ms Burns?
Ms Burns : Yes, I am at the moment. Yes, we are having regular fortnightly meetings with the union about the effect of both the machinery-of-government changes and any staffing reductions that might be occurring. In addition to the things that Ms Hand has said, we have a redeployment manager in place who we have used in the past who is very successful at moving people from jobs that are no longer a priority into jobs within the department that have a higher priority. We place a high priority on trying to move people around within the department so that we can assure people that, wherever possible, we will keep them within the department.
Senator MOORE: This is the last question—I promise you, Senator—and the rest will all go on notice. We talked last night about the extra complication, when you are moving staff between departments, of previous enterprise bargain agreements. I know there is a Public Service Commission process about that. Can we get, on notice, the different enterprise bargain levels of salary that are coming across—the previous FaHCSIA and the others coming into the new DSS—and also the ending times of the various enterprise bargains that are involved?
Ms Burns : Yes, Senator.
Mr Pratt : Yes, Senator.
Ms Burns : All the agreements end at the same time. The nominal expiry date is 30 June 2014 from the last bargaining round.
CHAIR: Senator Seselja, I gather you have a couple of questions in cross-portfolio, then we will move to seniors.
Senator SESELJA: I do have a few. Just before I ask those—and I will not ask questions in this area, Mr Pratt—I would put on record that I know there is a process going on in terms of accommodation for DSS. It had some publicity a while ago. I would put on record the importance of a very strong presence of DSS in Tuggeranong, but I will leave that with you.
Mr Pratt : Senator, I get quite a few representations along those lines.
Senator SESELJA: Indeed. I would endorse those representations. Could I ask some questions around the move to DisabilityCare under the former government and some of the advertising that was associated with that in promoting DisabilityCare, as it was known under the former government. I understand that at previous estimates it was disclosed that the advertising campaign in question was around $22 million. Is that correct?
Mr Pratt : I think that was the budget—21.58.
Ms Hand : It was $21.58 million over 2012-13 and 2013-14.
Senator SESELJA: I am just interested in getting some details on that. Firstly, how much of that budgeted amount of $21.5 million has actually been expended to date?
Mr Reddel : As at 30 September, $17.96 million has been spent on media buy, market research, creative development, public relations and audience engagement.
Senator SESELJA: I have some questions about a breakdown. Is that the basic breakdown—those categories you mentioned there?
Mr Reddel : Yes.
Senator SESELJA: That is how you have broken them down. Are you able to talk us through what each of the elements to the $17.96 million that has been expended to date are?
Ms Hand : You wanted the breakdown for this financial year?
Senator SESELJA: What has been spent to date, over the two financial years—is it over two financial years that it has been expended?
Ms Hand : Yes. There is a total over the two financial years for creative of $1.01 million.
Senator SESELJA: Creative was $1.01 million.
Ms Hand : This is quite long, Senator. I can table it, or I am very happy to talk it through, if you wish.
Senator SESELJA: Perhaps just the key elements in it, and if there is a matter of detail you can table it.
Ms Hand : In fact, it would be better if Ms Bell did this.
Ms Bell : The total spend for the campaign on creative was $1,012,000. Pitch fees on top of that were $45,000 for creative agencies. The media buy was $15.8 million. Research, and that is development and concept testing, was $640,000. Evaluation research was $300,000. CALD—that work we do with ethnic communities—was $191,000.
Senator SESELJA: Sorry, I missed that one.
Ms Bell : CALD community work was $191,000; Indigenous, $181,000; design and print, $17,000; and there was a call centre component of $93,000.
Senator SESELJA: Between what dates did the television advertising run? When did it commence and when did it finish?
Ms Bell : It ran from 16 June to 27 July 2013.
Senator SESELJA: Is there any breakdown on how much was focused on a national audience and how much was targeted at particular regional audiences where maybe some of the early rollouts were going to be?
Ms Bell : I would have to take that on notice. The media buy was split nationally and jurisdictionally, but I do not actually have that breakdown in front of me.
Senator SESELJA: Could you take that on notice. I think you said $300,000 for evaluation. Are you able to talk us through that? Does the website track back to how people found out about the campaign? What does that $300,000 get you, and what information have you gotten about, I guess, the success in awareness raising or otherwise of the campaign?
Ms Bell : We have not received the final evaluation report yet, so we do not have all the statistics. We do have our own internal stats that we collect. The primary objective, obviously, was to provide as much information in the ads as possible but to drive to the website to give the detailed information, because it is obviously a very complex policy and program rollout. The YouTube video received 2.9 million views, and 82 per cent watched it to the end, which is quite a high statistic. The website received 1,078,000 visits, and the call centre received 11,000 calls. The Facebook page received 39,000 likes, and the Twitter account had 700 followers.
Senator SESELJA: How much of the $15.8 million for the media buy was television?
Ms Bell : Sorry, I do not have that breakdown with me. I will have to take that on notice.
Senator SESELJA: Perhaps a breakdown then of television, print and other means?
Ms Bell : Print, radio, digital.
Senator SESELJA: In relation to the consultation on the change to the name DisabilityCare, how extensive was that consultation, and with whom was that consultation undertaken?
Ms Bell : The consultation was carried out by a research organisation between mid-2012 and early 2013. A consultation occurred with people with a disability, their families, carers, peak organisations, states and territories.
Senator SESELJA: Could you perhaps, on notice, provide us with a more detailed list of who was consulted with that name change. Is there some sort of list in terms of the organisations, peak bodies and others who were consulted with?
Ms Bell : I can have a look at that, and the methodology. There are privacy issues around working with research organisations so we obviously cannot provide information about individuals involved. We can have a look at the breakdown of the organisations and entities that were researched.
Senator SESELJA: Mr Pratt, before I finish I would like to follow up on another areas of questioning. I think Ms Hand said that 250 to 300 was the number of fewer positions in this financial year. The Department of Finance, when they were talking about the task of cutting 14,500 jobs as a result of decisions of the previous government, said that there was effectively a task given over the forward estimates to agencies. Are you able to share with us what that task is? You have said it was 250 jobs in this financial year. Do you have an estimate in terms of the outyears of the forward estimates?
Ms Hand : We are working through those, but because the financial negotiations with the other agencies are not yet complete, we are not confident yet of the outyear numbers. We could table that when we have done that piece of work, which we are working on as we speak.
Senator SESELJA: There are two aspects of this. Maybe when you take this question on notice you could take account of them. The first is the task you were given, which is about when you were FaHCSIA—there would have been a savings task there. The second is that you seem to be indicating that there is now a new savings task with the structural changes in the agency. Perhaps you can give both, if that is possible.
CHAIR: Senator Smith, do you have one follow-up question?
Senator SMITH: On the point of consultation around the name, I thought I read media reports that suggested that there was a lot of criticism about the change to Disability Care, and that there was a 'thread'—I think that is the word—on a website where people commented that they were disappointed about the name change, and then they were withdrawn. Is that correct? If it was a media report I am sure I would not have been the only one to have seen it. If it was an ABC media report, I am very sure I would not have been the only one to have seen it.
Mr Pratt : There was certainly quite a bit of differences of opinion around the name. I think everyone was across that. In terms of a thread—
Senator SMITH: I think it was on the 'your say' website.
Mr Pratt : I might take that on notice. I do not have a recollection of that. I do not know what that would refer to, or whether it is within the department or, potentially, the agency.
Senator SMITH: If someone is able to do a google search over the next couple of hours that would be much appreciated.
Mr Pratt : We will have a look at that.
CHAIR: I think the minister has a comment.
Senator Fifield: Senator Smith, you are quite right. There was a very strong adverse reaction to the name Disability Care Australia.
CHAIR: From me, for one.
Senator Fifield: The former government sought to change the name of the scheme at just the point in time that the broader community was starting to get an understanding of what the National Disability Insurance Scheme is. So I think the change in name led to confusion. Also, many people with disabilities found that the name Disability Care Australia was bordering on the patronising, particularly the word 'care', because people with disability do not want to be objects of care; they want to be supported to independence. So, one of the early decisions I took upon becoming minister was to direct the agency—in consultation with the states and territories, who are partners in the scheme—to revert to the original name of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. I am not aware of anyone who has lamented the demise of the name Disability Care Australia. But this also goes to the point that Senator Seselja was raising before, which is that there was a budget of $22 million for an advertising campaign, part of which was to rebrand, and $17 million was spent on that rebranding exercise.
That advertising campaign was national, despite the fact that the NDIS as a scheme will not be national until 2019-20. I can leave it to people to surmise as to what the real purpose was of a $17 million advertising spend in about a six-week period before an election campaign.
Senator SESELJA: Can I put on record that Mr Fifield's is the correct pronunciation of my surname.
Senator Fifield: Thank you.
CHAIR: Well done. Is that the first time?
Senator MOORE: I am just going to put on record that I am not going to engage in a political discussion about that statement from Minister Fifield. It is fine to put it on record, Minister. There were differing views, but I am not getting into a discussion on it.
CHAIR: Let us go then to outcome 4, seniors.
Senator MOORE: We have very few questions and the rest we will put on notice. We just want to ask a couple of questions.
CHAIR: Senator Moore, we might need to wait for the officers to change over.
Senator MOORE: Mr Pratt, I want to ask about the process for getting that list of grants. We want the list that had gone to Treasury. Is it possible to get that today?
Mr Pratt : I will check.
Senator MOORE: That would be lovely. I just thought I would remind you. It is Finance, not Treasury. Minister, these are mainly questions about ministerial work with the department, so I will put them straight to you and then to the department, if that is okay.
Senator Fifield: Sure.
Senator MOORE: We are particularly interested in whether there has been any discussion or communication from you to the department to develop policy options reducing future costs around the age pension.
Senator FIFIELD: There has not been from me. I should indicate that Minister Andrews has prime responsibility in the portfolio for payments.
Senator MOORE: Do you know whether there has been any discussion between Minister Andrews and the department about reducing costs around the age pension?
Senator FIFIELD: I am personally not aware of any.
Senator MOORE: Is the department aware of any discussions with Minister Andrews around reducing costs around the age pension?
Mr Innis : We are always working on options for government around the age pension and the other payments of the department, some of which involve savings to budgets and some of which do not.
Senator MOORE: I know that is your work, Mr Innis. I want to know whether there has been any discussion with Minister Andrews over the last couple of weeks specifically around the issues around reducing the costs of the age pension.
Mr Innis : We certainly had discussions with Minister Andrews about the payment system overall and a range of options within it.
Senator MOORE: About reducing costs around it?
CHAIR: They are not talking about reducing the pension.
Senator MOORE: No, costs. I was very careful to say 'costs around the issues of the age pension'—the costs associated with it.
Mr Innis : We have had discussions with the minister about options about the payment system overall. Some of them would involve cost reductions, yes.
Senator MOORE: And that leads to work in the department around those options. I am not asking you what the options are; but that is part of the work. You have already said that is ongoing work.
Mr Innis : Of course, Senator. It is something we do all the time.
Senator MOORE: In terms of the work in your area, I have similar questions about widow B pension, wife pension and wife age pension. They are the particular areas. In the ongoing discussions, the other payments have been discussed as well?
Mr Innis : With the bringing together of the Department of Social Services, a lot of the payment system now rests within the department, and we are looking at the system as a whole.
Senator MOORE: In terms of the way your branch, division?
Mr Innis : The social policy—
Senator MOORE: What have you done to yourself, Ms Foster. It was not in preparation for estimates, was it?
Ms Foster : No. I was not really after the sympathy vote. I just tripped over and broke my elbow.
Senator MOORE: I hope you are doing well.
Ms Foster : Yes, I am. Thank you.
Senator MOORE: Ms Foster, what area do you look after?
Ms Foster : I am the Acting Group Manager for the Social Policy Group. My group has responsibility for the age pension and means testing. Mr Joyce is acting branch manager for that branch at the moment. We also do data and modelling evaluation, longitudinal studies and management information.
Senator MOORE: So the age pension certainly, but those other payments—widow B, wife pension and wife pension age—are all part of the ageing payment, so you look after all of those?
Ms Foster : They are generally grouped together under pension payments, and payment rates and means testing conditions are generally similar to the age pension. There are different qualifications of course for some of those payments. For instance, widow B, wife age and wife disability are closed payments—they have been closed since the late 1990s.
Senator MOORE: In terms of that, the work around costings and options could cover any of those areas? Looking at modelling around current processes, research and all that kind of work would be done in your area?
Ms Foster : Substantially, yes. Although Disability and Carers Pensions, for instance, would be the responsibility of the disability group.
Senator MOORE: Right, I think I have that one right. I have a number of questions about a particular payment and the number of people on it. To your relief I will not go through one by one and ask all these questions, but I do have a question about the publication that used to come out. It was not particularly from your area, but I am taking this opportunity to feed it into the department, Mr Pratt. There used to be a publication that gave a full snapshot of all payments that had been made. The last publication was in October. That came out under the old FaHCSIA. Was that proposed to be an annual document that would have fallen around now or was that just a one-off? It was a table document. I have a copy of it. I used to use it because that is the kind of person I am. It is entitled Income support customers: a statistical overview 2011. I was wondering whether there was intent to do another one of those.
Ms Foster : That publication was published by the Social Policy Group of the former FaHCSIA. It was an annual publication, but I believe there were some delays in some publication for a while as priorities were permitting. I am not sure of the current status.
Senator MOORE: There was an accompanying one that I liked a lot called FaHCSIA facts and figures October 2012. It was very useful. Is it in your work plan to do one for October-November 2013?
Mr Innis : We can take on notice whether there is something specifically on the work plan. What we can say is that generally we are looking at the data collection and dissemination around the payments system. We have the opportunity to look at the system as a whole, and we are very keen to look at that. Clearly, data on payments is of broad interest to the community, including the research community.
Senator MOORE: This is a great document. Some of the answers to the questions we are asking would have been in that document. Basically, Mr Innis, we can say with authority that discussions have taken place about the general way that the payment processes are operating and possible cost savings? I just do not want to verbal you.
Mr Innis : Certainly, we have had discussions with the minister.
Mr Pratt : I do not know whether this will be helpful or not, but this is, as Mr Innis was saying, something we have done for years. We are constantly looking at all components of the welfare system. In former FaHCSIA those bits that were under its control and now that we have much more extensive overview of the welfare system, we have continued the same practice. We are looking at options all of the time.
Senator MOORE: Thank you. Thank you, Mr Innis. I hope you feel better, Ms Foster, and that heals well.
Senator PERIS: My questions are around the services for seniors. The government through the Seniors Supplement assisted retired and older Australians by offering and providing allowances, concessions and discounted services to help them with the costs of living and to maintain involvement in social services. Are you able to provide me, please, with the number of recipients of the Seniors Supplement and a breakdown for each state and territory for 2012 and 2013?
Ms Stawyskyj : I won't have it here but I can take on notice the breakdown per state on the senior supplement. The number of customers in 2012-13 for senior supplements was 284,239.
Senator PERIS: Are you also able to provide the administered outlays for the senior supplement for 2012-13?
Ms Stawyskyj : I can on notice; I will get it to you shortly.
Senator PERIS: Does the government intend to continue to provide financial support to eligible Commonwealth Senior Health Card holders?
Mr Innis : Senator, that is a question for the minister rather than for the department.
Senator PERIS: I will wait until he gets back. In relation to the Broadband for Seniors program, can you provide the latest data on the number of kiosk users per state and territory?
Mr Innis : One thing I could say about your previous question is that the government is committed to indexing the Commonwealth Senior Health Card and we are implementing that commitment of governments, so I suspect that it is an indication of the government's attitude towards it.
Ms Farrelly : There are currently 1,615 kiosks that are operating, and if I could take on notice the distribution of those kiosks.
Senator PERIS: Can you also please provide the latest data on percentage of kiosk users reporting improved skill and confidence in using computers and the internet?
Ms Farrelly : There was a 2012-13 survey of kiosk users that found that 90 per cent had reported improved skills in using computers and the internet; and 86 per cent reported increased confidence.
Senator PERIS: Can you provide the percentage of kiosk users participating in training activities?
Ms Farrelly : I would need to take that on notice, Senator.
Senator PERIS: Last question: can you please provide the latest data on the percentage of Australian seniors satisfied with the quality of Broadband for Seniors training and support?
Ms Farrelly : That would be something that I would also take on notice.
CHAIR: You had a question for the minister.
Senator PERIS: I did. Does the government intend to continue to provide financial support to eligible Commonwealth Senior Health Card holders?
Senator Fifield: Yes.
Senator PERIS: Thank you.
CHAIR: Thank you to the people involved in outcome 4. Can we now move to outcome 5. I would suggest that we will break as normal for lunch, so we will have half an hour on disability and carers before lunch and then the time that has been allotted is another hour after lunch. We will break at the normal time for lunch. Hopefully, that will give other people at least the chance to have a nice long lunch break.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am going to try to collect some data. What is the latest data that you have available on the number of recipients of the disability support pension?
Ms Essex : As at 30 June 2013, there were 821,738 recipients of the disability support pension.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you give me the latest information that you have on the administrative outlays associated with the disability support pension?
Ms Essex : The actual expenditure for 2012-13 was $14.99 billion.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you tell me whether the department has done any work on possible mechanisms for reducing the future costs associated with this payment?
Mr Innis : As part of the broader options and the work I mentioned earlier, we have certainly looked at disability pension as well as all the payments in the department.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Is that everything: the payment and associated costs?
Mr Innis : You might need to help me with what your definition of associated costs is so that we are precise in our response.
Senator CAROL BROWN: The costs associated with making that payment.
Mr Innis : The departmental costs?
Senator CAROL BROWN: Yes.
Mr Innis : The departmental costs are in the Department of Human Services, who deliver the payment for government.
Senator CAROL BROWN: You must have some extra costs.
Mr Innis : We certainly have some small costs associated with managing the policy of the payment, but they are very small in comparison to the costs of administration.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Has the department done any work relating to possible changes to any aspect of the current settings for the disability support pension?
Mr Innis : As mentioned, we have been doing a range of work, as we have done historically, on changes to the payment system so that is an ongoing process.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Have you had any further discussions with the new government?
Mr Innis : Of course we have had discussions with Minister Andrews about the payment system and its operation and options for the future.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How are those discussions going?
Mr Innis : I am hoping that the minister would say that they are going well.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I will not ask you what your view is about that! Can you give me some information about how long people are on the DSP?
Ms Essex : Offhand, I cannot give you information specifically around duration on DSP. I think I have some information about duration on payment, which is slightly different. People often have a period on another payment before they transfer to DSP.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Is the information that you are about to give me the duration on payment?
Ms Essex : The average duration on income support for someone on DSP is 12.9 years.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Is it not broken down any further? Is there no collection of data as to when they go on DSP? Obviously not.
Ms Essex : I would have to take on notice if we could get that level of granularity for you. A little bit depends on what we can extract from the system, but I am happy to take that on notice and look at it for you.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I appreciate that. Can you provide me with the latest data that you have on percentages and numbers of recipients reporting employment income?
Ms Essex : There were 68,437 recipients of the disability support pension who reported earnings. That is 8.3 per cent of the cohort.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you have any information about the period of time that that employment income is coming in? Is it one-off stuff?
Ms Essex : It will vary from individual to individual. A proportion of people will have regular work, so they have part-time work or a part-time earning capacity and they might have regular work of, say, eight hours a week. Other people will have seasonal work. We know that some people pick up seasonal work and have the capacity to do that. Some people's work and earning capacity is affected by their access to work and their level of disability. So it varies significantly throughout the cohort, which is why we talk about averages.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you keep the information about the quantum of that employment income?
Ms Essex : I can tell you that, as of 30 June 2013, the average earnings for a person on the disability support pension with earnings was $443.15 per fortnight.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you provide me with the latest data on payment accuracy of the DSP?
Ms Essex : I do not have that with me but I am sure we can get that in the course of the day for you.
Senator CAROL BROWN: That is fine.
Senator MOORE: I want to follow up on the duration question that Senator Brown asked. The document to which I referred before produced by the unit gave very detailed statistical information about the duration of people on payments. In fact, it gave a breakdown of seven classes of duration for people on the payment, so you must be able to get that data from somewhere.
Ms Essex : We will certainly get that on notice. The most recent data we have on the accuracy of the disability support pension in 2012-13 is 95.65 per cent.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am now going to ask a few questions about the sickness allowance.
Mr Innis : Those questions are probably best asked at outcome 9.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Would that be the same for the mobility allowance or can I ask about that here?
Mr Innis : In outcome 9.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can I ask questions about the wife pension disability support.
CHAIR: Yes. Please try and keep to the outcome so that people do not have to play musical chairs too much.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Absolutely. That is why I am asking for direction. Can you provide the latest data on the number of recipients of the wife pension DSP
Ms Essex : Yes. As you know, that payment was closed to new entrants in July 1995. As at 13 June 2013, there were 8,789 recipients of wife pension DSP.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What are the overall costs associated with that pension?
Ms Essex : The actual expenditure in 2012-13 was $130.51 million.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am assuming, of course, that the discussions that you have had with the minister regarding possible changes includes the discussion about wife pensions, and I am obviously talking about the new government, going forward.
Mr Innis : As I have said before, we are having discussions with the minister about the whole payment system and options within it. Closed payments generally do not rate very highly.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand what you are saying, but have they been mentioned?
Mr Innis : We have been having discussions about the whole system.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Across the board?
Mr Innis : Yes.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Okay. Thank you. I wanted to ask some questions about the carer payment. Can I ask those here.
CHAIR: Before we go on, can we finish 5.2.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask about the review process that has been mooted. Is it, in fact, a reality or is it just speculation about DSP?
Mr Pratt : Certainly the government is interested in the department, now that it has all of the payments together and we have a total picture of the welfare system, having us look at what we can do to ensure its sustainability, to ensure that it is effective, and to see what might be able to be done to simplify the system to make sure that it is all working in a coherent way and that it encourages workforce participation. We are, as part of the business of the department, going to be—and, in fact, we are already—thinking through those sorts of issues, and Mr Innis has referred to the discussions we have had around all aspects of the payment system as part of that. To the extent that that could be defined as reviewing, yes, we are.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the time frame for that?
Mr Pratt : This will, I imagine, have a number of phases. We will look at things in the context of the next budget. We will look at things in the context of changes which might be possible over the next decade. It is probably an ongoing exercise for us. It will be a core part of what the department does.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the next budget, are you implying from that that we may see cuts in the budget?
Mr Pratt : I do not think that you could imply that from what I said.
Senator SIEWERT: You said that you are looking at it in terms of the next budget.
Mr Pratt : Yes, and for every budget we look at both savings measures and spending measures. No doubt we will do the same thing for the next budget.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I do not know if this is appropriate here, although it is appropriate to the discussion that we are having: have you done a review of the process where, if you are applying for a DSP, unless you have got a manifest disability and you have got the 20 points, you have to go through the process where you go through Newstart first, go through finding work for 18 months and then you come back for a DSP?
Mr Pratt : At a general level, everything is in scope, in that sense, but we are not currently reviewing that—and someone will correct me if I am wrong—
Mr Innis : No, we are not.
Mr Pratt : We are not currently reviewing the process for determining whether or not people get onto the disability support pension.
Senator SIEWERT: So, if you are doing the review, that has been a major change, and it is responsible partly, I think, for some of the increase in the numbers of those on Newstart. How do you know whether that measure is being effective. If you are looking at changes to DSP and if one of the things you are trying to achieve is to encourage workforce participation, how do you know what programs are going to be effective if you do not review that, which was a major change?
Mr Pratt : We will look at these all in their combination. We now have responsibility for the Newstart allowance as well as the DSP, the parenting payment and so forth, and so we will examine all sorts of components of what I would describe generically as the welfare system. So yes, these things will be in scope, but we are not doing a specific review of the mechanisms by which people currently get on the DSP.
CHAIR: So do you—
Mr Pratt : That is a point of emphasis, really—we are not doing something which is the review of the assessment process for DSP.
Senator SIEWERT: I do not quite get this. Is the DSP being singled out, which is what was implied in the media?
Mr Pratt : I am not going to comment on media reports.
Senator SIEWERT: No. I was about to say, I take that with a pinch of salt, but—
Mr Pratt : We are looking at all components of the welfare system.
Senator SIEWERT: And is that included in the McClure process?
Mr Pratt : Mr McClure did an actual review back in the early 2000s. We do not have a new McClure process underway at this stage.
Senator SIEWERT: So the reports that Mr McClure was being engaged to look at the issues around income support are not true?
Mr Pratt : Mr McClure has not been engaged by the department.
Senator SIEWERT: He has not been engaged to date. Is it under consideration? You are not going to walk out of here—
Mr Pratt : I have had a couple of conversations with Mr McClure, but whether or not that happens will be a decision for government.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. So it is not that he is not going to do a review, it just has not happened yet.
Mr Pratt : I cannot confirm that he will do a review. I do not know yet.
Senator SIEWERT: As part of the process of this review, are you looking at the adequacy of Newstart?
Mr Pratt : We will look at all aspects of the welfare system.
Senator SIEWERT: It is going to be in-house. At the moment you are doing it in-house.
Mr Pratt : There has not been a government decision on that.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Can I come back to—
Mr Pratt : Certainly we are doing in-house work on options and thinking through the policies and so forth but, as I mentioned before, this is core business now for the Department of Social Services.
Senator SIEWERT: I will come back to the specific program I was talking about before. Is it appropriate to ask those numbers here or should I do that this afternoon under the employment section? Can I just forewarn that I would like to get those figures today if possible rather than putting them on notice— that is, specifically related to that program around the numbers of people that have gone through the process of having to find work for the 18 months, and then going back on the DSP or not.
Mr Innis : Let me see if we can do that now.
Ms Essex : I can give that data to you now, Senator.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
Ms Essex : What I will give you is the number of people whose DSP claims were initially rejected on program of support grounds; the number of people from each cohort by month who have rejections with our current program placement; and where they have ended up as at 30 June. That is the data I have available for you.
CHAIR: That is not 18 months, though, is it?
Ms Essex : The program of support measures started in September 2011, so the first people would have completed their program of support requirements around the end of March of this year.
Senator SIEWERT: So you have the first cohort, in other words.
Ms Essex : We have close to the first three months of data. In September 2011 there were 12 claims rejected on program of support grounds; four of those people have current program placements as of 30 June 2013.
Senator SIEWERT: That is, as in work placements, you mean?
Ms Essex : No, they are still undertaking aspects of the program of support. There might be a range of reasons for that, including that they might have had a period where they were for some reason unfit to undertake a program of support and had an exemption. I have four current program placements. Three of the people who were rejected on program of support grounds are on DSP, five are on Newstart and two have another outcome—they are on some other form of income support. Fifty per cent of the claims for that month had a severe impairment so they were not subject to a program of support.
Senator SIEWERT: You had 12 that were rejected but there was a cohort that had—
Ms Essex : There is a cohort outside of that which has a severe impairment, so for each of these figures there is a cohort who, because they had a severe impairment—that is, 20 points on one table—did not have to—
Senator SIEWERT: They did not have to participate.
Ms Essex : They do not have to do a program of support. That is just to clarify that these numbers will not match exactly the number of people on DSP, for that reason. It also, of course, excludes people who were manifestly granted DSP.
October to December 2011: 223 claims rejected; 49 of those have current program placement as of 30 June 2013; 96 are currently on DSP; 45 on Newstart; 25 on some other form of income support.
Senator SIEWERT: How many actually found work?
Ms Essex : I would need to take that on notice because I do not have that column with me.
Senator SIEWERT: If you are on placement you are on Newstart?
Ms Essex : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: There are 49 still on placement.
Ms Essex : Yes. You might not be on Newstart if you were on some other form of income support.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. So they are on some form of income support and they are on placement. There are 45 that are straight on Newstart. Are they still going? They have actually come through the other side?
Ms Essex : No, for some other reason they are not eligible for DSP at this time. Their condition may have improved. The other thing I should clarify is that not everyone on a program of support will be on income support. Some might have some other means or they might have a working partner or something like that.
January to March 2012: 494 claims were rejected on program of support grounds; 114 have a current program placement, as at 30 June; 218 are currently on DSP; 116 on Newstart; and 60 on other. Again, that is as at 30 June.
Senator SIEWERT: What I am trying to find out is how many have actually managed to find work and be sustained in a job. That is what this is supposed to be about.
Ms Essex : We will see if we can get that for you today.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could, and I will follow it up again in the employment section.
Mr Lewis : We can give you right now a total volume for the period. As at 5 July 2013, 3,385 people, that is 79 per cent of the 4,305 claims that were rejected due to the POS requirement, were on an income support payment. Then we break that down for the total volume: 28 per cent, that is 1,192, had subsequently been granted DSP; 40 per cent, that is 1,725, were on Newstart allowance; 11 per cent, that is 468, were on another income support payment; and 21 per cent, that is 920, were not on an income support payment, so you would argue that they got work or some other income.
CHAIR: One hopes that is because they are working.
Senator SIEWERT: They got work or dropped out of the system. That is 21 per cent?
Mr Lewis : That is right.
Senator SIEWERT: I am trying to find out the effectiveness of this program. Have you compared that with how many people ended up on DSP or some form of income support before this process was introduced?
Ms Essex : There is a body of work that is to be done as part of that measure which is an evaluation of the effectiveness of the measure. As I said, we are only three to four months into the period where people would have completed a full program of support from the very earliest point, so we do not yet have sufficient data to do that work, but that is a body of work that my branch will do.
Senator SIEWERT: The other point there is that since that program was introduced we have also changed the impairment tables, so we are still not comparing apples with apples, are we? For this program to be laid on top of that, those people that would then have potentially qualified for DSP would also have to go through the new impairment table process.
Mr Lewis : You may need to adjust the analysis to in some way compensate for that as well.
Senator SIEWERT: So what is the timeline for that specific evaluation in the view of this review that is going on?
Ms Essex : We intend that that will be done in the 2013-14 financial year. The exact timing is a little dependent on having sufficient data for any analysis to be robust and it is still a little early for that.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. Can I ask on notice—because I realise it will take time—whether you have a breakdown in terms of the ages of the people who have gone through this process.
Ms Essex : We can get that for you.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated.
CHAIR: I might just hand over now to Senator Wright, who has questions in 5.1. Senator Siewert, will you have any questions in 5.2 and 5.3?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I may have a few more.
CHAIR: So, after lunch, there may be more questions in that area.
Mr Innis : Senator Brown had some questions on a couple of specific payments.
Senator CAROL BROWN: In outcome 3, but to help them our timeline I could—
Mr Innis : If you could just let me know what payments they are so I can make sure we have the right people.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I can put them on notice so that we can move on.
Mr Innis : Thank you.
Senator WRIGHT: I really only have to questions, in relation to PHaMs, Personal Helpers and Mentors program. I am interested to know whether PHaMs will be funded for future services beyond the current arrangements that are in place or will the money be redirected to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. What is the future of PHaMs?
Ms Farrelly : Our funding arrangements will continue for the continuation of the funding agreements that are in place for PHaMs providers. You may be aware that funding for PHaMs will be rolled into the NDIS, scheduled for 30 June 2015.
Senator WRIGHT: Can I take it from that that it is envisaged that there will be no further independent PHaMs program, apart from persons who would be eligible under the NDIS? I am interested in what will happen to people. The NDIS, I understand, is about people who it has been determined have a permanent disability. The PHaMs program is greatly supported everywhere I go, because it is actually very responsive and it is recovery-oriented—so the optimal outcome is that people do not end up with a permanent disability. So what is going to happen for those people who will not be eligible under the NDIS but derive a lot of benefit from PHaMs?
Dr Hartland : We anticipate that the majority of people who are currently serviced by PHaMs would be eligible for the NDIS. The NDIS includes a service offer that goes beyond those who get an individually funded package. So we do not as yet see that there would be a reduction in total availability of services for people currently serviced by PHaMs.
Senator WRIGHT: I mainly look at mental health issues as opposed to disability and NDIS type issues, so you will have excuse me, but are you saying that there would be people who may be eligible to receive service under a continuing PHaMs program who would not necessarily be receiving other services under the NDIS?
Dr Hartland : Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that.
Senator WRIGHT: I suspected it might not be!
Dr Hartland : No, which is why you are asking—I appreciate that. NDIS has the capacity to fund a series of services for people wider than what is called the tier 3 group. Many of the activities that PHaMs providers currently do are very close to what the Productivity Commission anticipated would be provided in what it called the tier-2 type service. We do not anticipate at this point that there is going to be a major problem in relation to people currently receiving mental health services.
Ms Farrelly : Senator, my statement earlier about the rolling-in mentioned that the rolling-in in 2015 is in launch sites. So the rolling in of the remainder of the PHaMs will happen over the period of the NDIS, as it rolls out.
Senator WRIGHT: Thank you for that. That is probably as far as I can take that.
Proceedings suspended from 12:30 to 13:30
CHAIR: The plan is that we will go through everything except the NDIS and the NDIA. We will finish everything off before we can then spend a solid amount of time on those two topics.
Senator SIEWERT: Mr Pratt, have you managed to find those figures in relation to employment?
Mr Pratt : No, I have nothing in front of me about employment. I have other answers though!
Senator SIEWERT: Let's go with the answers, then!
Senator MOORE: We will see whether you can make us happy.
Mr Pratt : I do have Ms Essex has a substantial number of statistics that she is happy to join us on. But, perhaps before we get into that—
CHAIR: Please, go ahead, Mr Pratt.
Mr Pratt : Senator Seselja asked a question around national versus launch-site media by spend. The specific costs breakdown of spending in launch sites across both media and public relations, as opposed to the national spend, is not readily available. The calculation is not straightforward, because there is considerable media that is national but that had regional coverage—newspapers such as the Australian and the Financial Review. We will attempt to see what else we can find on notice in relation to that.
On the question of a breakdown of the media, again asked by Senator Seselja: television, $5.88 million; radio, $1.28 million; newspaper, $2.91 million; magazines, $328,000; digital, $3.24 million; culturally and linguistically diverse, $1.03 million; Indigenous, $276, 000; print handicapped, $50,000; commission fees, dispatch production and reporting, $827,000—and that totals $15.84 million.
On the list of persons and organisations who participated in market research—this is not particularly helpful—perhaps I should read this first: 'In line with standard market research procedures people and organisations who participate in the market research do so under confidentiality. The department was not provided with a list of the individual names of people who participated and their responses; however, we can confirm that the market research included a series of focus groups with people with disability, family and carers and the general public and one-on-one discussions over the phone with representatives from disability peak organisations and state and territory governments'.
I have some material, Senator Smith, in relation to the Your Say forum, which I might digest and then provide to you—
Senator SMITH: Of course, yes. I think the minister's explanation rounded off on that, but if there is anything further to add, that is great.
Mr Pratt : Thank you, Senator. Ms Essex, do you have more? Perhaps some of it we may want to table.
Ms Essex : Senator, there are 200 data points in the table, so I will give you the totals, if that is all right, and we will provide the rest on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: On notice—or, if you have it, can you table it today?
Ms Essex : I do not have it in a form that I can easily table. We will see if we can get that for you.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could. From experience and with all due respect, when we take something on notice I usually get it a long way down the track.
Mr Innis : We will see if we can do it today.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.
Ms Essex : Broadly you asked about age groups of people subject to the policy requirements. There were 123 between the ages of 16 and 24. That was 2.86 per cent of the total to June 2013. There were 153 between the ages of 25 and 34, and that is 3.55 per cent of the total. We have done this in the usual age bands that we provide the data in. We had 443 individuals between the ages of 35 and 44, 10.29 per cent of the total; 998 people between the ages of 45 and 54, 23.18 per cent of the total; 2,485 between the ages of 55 and 64, 57.72 per cent; and 103 people who were 65-plus, and that is likely to be because they applied for DSP before the age of 65 and their 18 months took them over that age group. That is 2.39 per cent. We are still working through the employment outcomes for those people and we will do our best endeavours to get that to you today. I cannot recall if it was you or Senator Brown asking about DSP earnings by age group.
Senator SIEWERT: It was Senator Brown but I am interested in that too.
Ms Essex : For 16- to 24-year-olds there were 7,729 with earnings. There are 54,663 DSP recipients and the percentage with earnings is 14.1 per cent. In the age group 25 to 34 years there are 12,047 with earnings. There are 86,445 DSP recipients and that constitutes 14.6 per cent of the cohort. For 35 to 44 years there are 13,592 with earnings and 130,317 DSP recipients in the cohort. That constitutes 10.4 per cent with earnings. For 45- to 54-year-olds there are 16,984 individuals with earnings in a total DSP population for the cohort of 210,752, so 8.1 per cent of the cohort. For 55 to 64 years there are 16,984 individuals with earnings. There are 312,199 DSP recipients in that cohort. That means that 5.4 per cent have earnings. There are 1,100 individuals 65 years of age and over on DSP with earnings. There are 31,162 DSP recipients over the age of 65 and that means those with earnings constitute 3.5 per cent of that cohort.
Senator SIEWERT: The interesting thing in those figures is that again that group between 55 and 64 that are also highly represented in long-term Newstart figures have also, I noticed, beside the over 65-year-olds, the smallest earning percentage as well. Have you looked into why that might be?
Mr Innis : One of the things you would need to do is look at how long those people had been on income support. One of the things you want to do in policy terms is get people activated as quickly as possible, and often the longer people have spent on income support the harder it is. So one of the things you would need to look at to really understand the numbers is the longevity of time on income support.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand that, but you have got the same issues as well for those that are on Newstart and are longer on Newstart. So there are even bigger issues with those with a disability but you are still got low percentages of engagement in the workforce.
Mr Innis : As people get towards that 65-year age that is certainly true in the data.
Mr Pratt : Chair, I can now try and finalise that question from Senator Smith on the yoursay forum. Senator, I am advised the yoursay online site was established in August 2012 as a forum for people and organisations to share their thoughts and provide feedback on key design questions about the scheme. So specific questions were posted and then comments and feedback invited. Once ideas had been canvassed, then individual forums would close. People were invited to provide comments on aspects other than design in other forums; in other words, they were encouraged to go and comment about things on Facebook, Twitter, through an email inbox and through a call-centre phone number. Apparently, on 18 March 2013, an unauthorised yoursay forum was posted, about the name 'DisabilityCare Australia', and this was considered to not contribute to the program design consultation process—
CHAIR: An unauthorised what, sorry?
Mr Pratt : It was an unauthorised yoursay forum—in other words, a topic on the forum—and it was about the name 'DisabilityCare Australia'. It was decided that this did not contribute to the program design consultation process. And then on 20 March a message was posted on yoursay, and I will quote it: 'The NDIS yoursay website recently displayed a forum question that was not initiated by the administrators of the yoursay website. The forum was removed on 20 March 2013, and we encourage you to utilise social media sites that have been set up for user generated discussions.' In other words, the view was that the yoursay forum should not be used for that type of discussion, and people were referred elsewhere to have it.
Senator SMITH: To complain about the change in the name?
Mr Pratt : Yes, that is right.
Senator SMITH: That is right, yes—because I specifically remember the chairman of the Victorian national disability organisation, I think, saying that the name change painted an image of dependency. So the point I was making was that the name change was not only was expensive but also met with great unpopularity in some sections of the disability community. Thanks very much for the additional information.
Mr Pratt : You are welcome.
Senator SMITH: Could I have a little indulgence, Chair?
CHAIR: Just a little one, Senator Smith. What are we indulging you in?
Senator SMITH: It is just one question, and it goes back to the conversation I was having around grants. I do recall seeing a letter from the former Minister for Multicultural Affairs that was dated 5 August. You will recall that the election was called on Sunday, 4 August. I recall seeing a letter that was signed by her, dated 5 August, announcing a successful grant application. So it was in the form of a letter to an organisation. If you have the information at the moment, that is great; but, if not, perhaps in the course of the afternoon you could confirm whether or not the former Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Lundy, did sign letters dated 5 August advising people of successful grant applications.
Mr Pratt : We will be able to cover that under outcome 10 later on today. I am aware that Senator Lundy, in that capacity, did write a number of letters to successful applicants under one of the multicultural programs at that stage. As for which date it was, I do not know, but we should be able to cover that off later on today.
Senator SMITH: Great. Thanks very much.
CHAIR: Will you be able to give us the number of letters, the number of grants et cetera, at that stage, Mr Pratt?
Mr Pratt : I am hopeful that the people who will be answering those questions are hearing this right now and will be busy preparing for it.
CHAIR: Okay. Let's do 5.4 and 5.5 and 5.7 now.
Senator MOORE: I want to check on the National Disability Advocacy Program. In the annual report it said that in the 2012-13 year, 59 organisations were funded.
Mr Cole : Yes.
Senator MOORE: You would understand that during a number of our hearings the issue of advocacy came up all the time, about what people needed in the area. What is the ongoing budget for this program?
Mr Cole : At the moment it is just a bit over $16 million for this year, and it will continue to be at that.
Senator MOORE: Into how many forward years?
Mr Cole : Up to 2015.
Senator MOORE: At $16 million per year?
Mr Cole : Yes. Just over $16 million.
Senator MOORE: And with the process in which that operates: are the organisations funded for their full period or do they have to come back and request more funding?
Mr Cole : No, they are funded for the full period up until—
Senator MOORE: And that takes up all the funding?
Mr Cole : That funding, yes, that is right.
Senator MOORE: Minister, you would understand the importance of this particular program. We had a number of discussions during the review of the NDIS legislation about the role of advocacy with the process. Is it still the government's view that the advocacy program stays separate to the NDIS program?
Senator Fifield: That is right.
Senator MOORE: And is it the government's view that this could be revisited? It is funded into the future now at a certain amount—is it one of the many things that would be subject to review?
Senator Fifield: All of these expenditure decisions are looked at in the context of the budget.
Senator MOORE: Mr Cole, have you received any applications from other groups seeking funding for the advocacy program apart from the 59 that are already funded?
Mr Cole : Not that I am aware of.
Senator MOORE: And with the process, does your section—section?
Mr Cole : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Does your section work with the groups? Is there any ongoing process of communication with the funded groups about what they have to do in reporting and process in that way?
Mr Cole : Yes. My branch continues to work with the organisations that we fund to deliver on the outcomes.
Senator MOORE: Right. Do you have a standard reporting format?
Mr Cole : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Can we get a copy of that format? That would be really useful.
Mr Cole : Yes, I will have to take that on notice.
Senator MOORE: That will be fine. Now, I do not know if these are for your, Mr Cole, but I have a couple of smaller questions about the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service—
Mr Cole : Yes, that is me.
Senator MOORE: This is particularly focused on support for people who are going to medical appointments—is that right?
Mr Cole : That is correct.
Senator MOORE: What is the ongoing funding commitment for that program?
Mr Cole : I will just find that for you.
Senator MOORE: And you can expect the same question, Minister, about how it links in with the NDIS programs!
Mr Cole : The expenditure for financial year 2013-14 is $5.8 million, and the funding agreement is currently in place until 30 June 2016.
Senator MOORE: 2016—at the same amount?
Mr Cole : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Is it a capped program? You can only spend up to that amount?
Mr Cole : Up to, that is correct.
Senator MOORE: And what is the process for people claiming that payment? Is it the person who is seeking the medical services who makes the claim for the service, or is it the Auslan interpreter? How do people claim it?
Mr Cole : I would have to come back to you around the detail on that.
Senator MOORE: That would be fine. It is not on the website, and I know people who have used it but they are not quite sure how they get it either.
Mr Cole : Yes, let me come back to you.
Senator MOORE: But nonetheless, they are very clear that they want it. And this is a smaller one again, but it was one we talked about at the last estimates—are you getting an updated answer there, Mr Cole?
Mr Cole : Yes, but I was listening to your question—
Senator MOORE: I will shut up if you get the updated answer!
Mr Cole : No, it is okay! We have a contractor who provides that service. The people ring up and get it and then we pay them back through the contractor, so they make the claim through the contractor.
Senator MOORE: And how do they know about it?
Mr Cole : It would be advertised, obviously. It is on the department's website—
Senator MOORE: Yes. The fact that the program exists is on the website, but in letting the people who need those services know, is that out through community groups or through Australian Hearing? Is there a process?
Mr Cole : Because the NABS program has been around for quite a period of time, part of it is word of mouth and part of it is that promotion through various organisations.
Senator MOORE: Okay. And it is quite a controlled group that actually seeks the services, so they have their own—
Mr Cole : Generally speaking, that is right., yes.
Senator MOORE: And the other one is for the Accessible Cinema Advisory Group, which we talked a little bit about at the last estimates. That started out as a pilot, didn't it, working with Hoyts and the various companies? What is the future of that one?
Mr Cole : The last meeting was held earlier in the year. I can look that up for you.
Senator MOORE: It was between estimates, was it not?
Mr Lewis : July.
Senator MOORE: In July they had the meeting. And they are happy?
Mr Cole : Yes, and it looks like we are in advance of meeting what the rollout schedule was initially. There are four big cinema chains and three of them have already met their targets and we are just waiting on the fourth one.
Senator MOORE: And your report back process for that?
Mr Cole : We have an email address that we will continue to use, and anyone from that group can contact us through that email address. What we have said is that we will go back out to the members of the group with any further updates.
Senator MOORE: The other one I have on this page is Leaders for Tomorrow program. That is yours as well?
Mr Cole : No.
Senator MOORE: Okay. Before you run away, do you happen to have the National Disability Conference Initiative?
Mr Cole : No, that is Karen Wilson as well.
Senator MOORE: How lucky am I? We will go with the Leaders for Tomorrow. Also one that we have had some very positive feedback about. What is the current status of that program? Where is it in the funding cycle?
Ms K Wilson : It is in the final year of its funding, so it is a lapsing program and will finish June 2014.
Senator MOORE: Has it had a program review?
Ms K Wilson : No, it has not.
Senator MOORE: Is there an intention to have a program review?
Ms K Wilson : Not at this stage, no.
Senator MOORE: The program has been going now for how many years?
Ms K Wilson : It started in July 2010.
Senator MOORE: Mr Pratt, why would a program that has been going for a significant time not have an automatic review to see how it was going before it got to its lapsing date?
Mr Pratt : I must confess I do not know what evaluatory arrangements were put in place for that program.
Senator MOORE: It is standard practice, is it not, to have a review? How much money is it, Ms Wilson? It is not insignificant.
Ms K Wilson : It is $3 million from 2010-11 to 2013-14. I could take on notice whether an evaluation component was included in that costing or not.
Senator MOORE: Would you mind, and seeing if, when it was first introduced, there was the inbuilt. We moved to a plan that all programs would have an evaluation process written into them, but I do not know when that came into effect. On notice, can you let me know the background to that. The feedback that we have had is that it has been positive and self-affirming for so many people, so it would be good if there could be any opportunity to look at having an evaluation process and see what we can do into the future in that way. My understanding is that when it started it was promoted as an innovative program, that this kind of thing had not been done in the disability network before. That is what I remember from 2010.
The other one was the National Disability Conference Initiative, which again was put out there to allow people to come together and talk about issues with all the extra expense of going to conferences. What is plan on that?
Ms K Wilson : That is an ongoing program. The funding rounds are conducted annually, so for 2013-14 there were 34 organisations that were successful in receiving funding under that program.
Senator MOORE: On notice, can I get a list of those organisations and how much they got? What is the ongoing allocation for that program?
Ms K Wilson : It is a total of up to $350,000 each financial year.
Senator MOORE: And that is funded through until what year?
Ms K Wilson : It would be in the forward estimates.
Senator MOORE: They are the basic questions I have, Chair.
CHAIR: As there are no more questions for any of the areas except for the NDIS, I thank the officers for their time.
CHAIR: We will now move to the NDIS.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to start on comments that were made yesterday, Minister, about the costs and the participants. Let us start with where each of the launch sites is up to, and then can we proceed to the comments that have been made about the increasing costs and how that is relating to costs per participant.
Dr Hartland : Senator, while the NDIA are preparing themselves, the minister was using data from the first quarter of this financial year, which is the first quarter of operation of the NDIA. The agency had just provided its first quarterly report, and so there was an opportunity for the minister to review the data and work that into his speech.
Mr Bowen : I will start with the numbers, and then I will give some explanation of those. As at the end of September the bilateral intake estimates, which is nationally across all of the four launch sites, was 2,208. Nationally we had received 3,222 access request forms. We had 2,029 determined eligible, and we still had 911 access determinations underway. We determined 127 access requests as ineligible. We had completed plans for 921 people.
Senator SMITH: Just to be clear: the 921 is a measure against the 2,208?
Mr Bowen : I will come to an explanation of that in a moment. So we had 921 plans completed. We had 875 plans underway. We had 73 people who had made an access, but were due under the bilateral schedules to phase in later. Under the rules we were wait-listing those people until we got to the time in which they were due to come into the scheme, so they had made their access request out of phase.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay.
Mr Bowen : I can give you a breakdown for each of the launch sites, but it might be easier if we just provide that to you rather than me read all of those numbers out.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you able to table them now?
Mr Bowen : We cannot table it in the form we have, but we will be able to provide it later today. We will not take that on notice; we will provide that later today.
I will start with an explanation of what the numbers are. The bilateral agreement set upon an estimated number over 12 months, which was to meet the funding commitment from the Commonwealth and the state. Those numbers were then divided into either 12 for those states that were doing a monthly intake, or by four to give a quarterly intake. The targets did not allow any time at all for start-up or for the agency's administrative time in dealing with access requests and dealing with the planning. So there was naturally going to be a delay in the process of receiving the information, making that access determination and then engaging with the person in the planning conversation. The statutory time frames for this allow 14 days for the agency to make an access determination, following receipt of all the information, and the rules allow an additional 28 days to complete a plan, again from receipt of all the information. So we have also been measuring progress against those sorts of time frames.
We feel that, after the end of the first quarter, we now have enough information to predict what a business-as-usual model looks like. Our prediction is that we require eight working days to deal with an access request. We did not meet that in the first quarter, but the process was quite administratively cumbersome. There was no individualised information held on people coming into the scheme, so we were going out with consent forms to providers, getting those consent forms back, sending the access request forms, getting the access request forms back—often with not all the information in it—and making the decision. After the access request is determined, we now project 22 days on average to complete the plan.
I think what has been most notable is that people coming into the scheme have never been involved in these sorts of planning discussions before. It is quite common for us to hear that back from them, and it is now unusual to complete a plan at one meeting, so we are finding there is necessary time for multiple meetings. We have also had the experience that people coming in, have that meeting and then they say, 'I want to go away and have a little bit of a think about it. We think it is necessary to build that type of time into the system.
There have also been some things in the first quarter that we think do need our attention; however, there has been a tendency for people to come back in quite regularly for small amendments to the agencies. I think that is really reflective of the current system whereby if you do not get it all up front in one hit, then that is all you will get. So people are treating it very much as that type of approach to the agency—'I've got to try and get it set up front'—not understanding that this is a scheme that allows for variation over time as people's individual circumstances change. But there has also been a tendency for people to come in and treat it as a little bit like a menu, and say, 'I've heard someone else got that, I want one of those as well'. We think it is quite important and very consistent with the concept of choice and control that there is an expectation upon people, having got their individualised package, that they manage it unless there is a real change in their circumstances that warrant further review of the plan. So we are passing that message back to people because the repeat of coming back to the agency is in fact backlogging other people entering into the system.
But we also say that the agency's performance in that first quarter was below our business as usual target. A fair bit of that is do with getting staff acquainted with new systems, getting them used to having the planning discussions establishing our body of practice for going forward. We have now modelled our 30 working days, business as usual, through to the end of the financial year and against that target we are confident that we will be up-to-date with the business as usual target by the end of the financial year. That is it on the timing.
CHAIR: By the end of the financial year.
Mr Bowen : The other issue was the average package cost. The bilateral agreements have an average package cost of $34,969. But the end of the first quarter, for people who had completed plans in that quarter, the annualised average cost of the plans in that first quarter was $46,290. So that will give you some explanation as to why that might be the case. The first of these is that it is not necessarily the case—indeed it would be unusual to expect that a single quarter cohort would equal an average, so there may be variation just due to the people coming in. In at least one launch site, which is a Victorian launch site, they prioritise people entering into the scheme as being high needs people on their wait list, so we would expect the average cost there to be up. We use a frequency of support indicators to measure what our assessment determines as the appropriate reasonable necessary package back to reference packages, and the frequency of support indicator would suggest that people are getting the appropriate level, but what it does show is that we have abnormally large number of people with high frequency of support coming into the first quarter. However, I also have to say that, based upon our internal quality assurance, we are not confident that our planners and assessors are using that frequency of support tool correctly and properly, so we have to dig in further behind that, because otherwise it just sounds a bit easy to say that is the only explanation.
I will keep going and then we can come back and jump into that. There are a couple of potential cash flow effects as well. Let me give you two examples of those. If people have assistive technology above $5,000 then it is in the funding that is amortised over five years. In the circumstance where a person comes in and gets a piece of equipment—maybe a new wheelchair—that is going to push this year's average package cost up, but the funding for that flows over the next five years, so there is a cash flow impact. Similarly, with early intervention—
Senator SMITH: But wouldn't that have been known when you did the original modelling?
Mr Bowen : It is known, and I think what we will do for the second quarter is produce a figure that does not just give an average annualised basis on a quarter; we will dig down and give an analysis to the minister and his state colleagues which breaks the actual expenditure up against what is expected by different types of expenditure, rather than just bundle everything up into a single figure.
Senator McLUCAS: Would the figure of $46,290 include an unamortised cost?
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: So a large capital cost is included in that.
Mr Bowen : But, having said that, there is some but there is not a lot in that bucket in the first quarter. That does not in and of itself explain it being 30 per cent above, but it explains some of it being above.
Senator McLUCAS: I think the other element that assists in explaining is the Victorian high-needs issue.
Mr Bowen : I think there is a combination.
Senator McLUCAS: In part.
Mr Bowen : What we are now doing is working with the scheme actuary to give this breakdown and to understand exactly what the reasons are. Similarly, there are early intervention payments. These are, of course, time- and purpose limited, and when you annualise them it may be that the intervention was not for a whole 12 months and so you would expect to wind off. Nevertheless, without too much science behind it, I feel, based upon having looked deeply into the numbers, that it is too high, that we are not quite nailing 'reasonable and necessary' yet and that we do not have the evidence base well enough in place to be able to say that for every person coming in it is within the expected range.
CHAIR: So you are saying the plans are not nailing 'reasonable and necessary' or that the planning times—
Mr Bowen : The planning and assessment process of determining 'reasonable and necessary' is quite possibly leading to package costs that are at least slightly too high. We are doing a number of things in response to that. Firstly, we had already set in place a number of process reviews to try and use external information to validate our assessment tools. The Productivity Commission actually recognised this risk. It said there is no assessment tool available for the agency to use. We have built one to have it operational from 1 July, and we are now trying to use external data to refine it and validate it. If necessary, we will change it, because—
Senator SIEWERT: Change the tool, you mean?
Mr Bowen : We will change the tool to match back to the underlying assumptions.
Senator SIEWERT: There is that explanation. I accept that you are still calibrating that, but the other thing is that people do need this level of support.
Mr Bowen : That is right, and that was the first explanation—that it might be to do with the cohort coming in.
Senator SIEWERT: If you are looking at recalibrating it, you are not then contemplating reassessing people and taking back some of the supports that you have given them?
Mr Bowen : No.
Senator SIEWERT: So they keep those supports that you have agreed through that planning process.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. I just did not want that uncertainty out there for people.
Mr Bowen : No. I just would reinforce the point that this is exactly why the Productivity Commission recommended a launch, to be able to settle all of these assumptions not only about the numbers but also about the operating model, to give us some time and the data necessary to make that really robust before we built the full scheme.
Senator SIEWERT: How does the number of people in the scheme relate to the calculations for the first group of people you were going to have in the scheme for the first quarter?
Mr Bowen : Those were the numbers I read out.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, but how does that correlate to what was predicted, on what basis were the assumptions made, when the calculations were made before we started, in terms of participants?
Mr Bowen : The bilateral agreements were to reach a number of people who matched the funding that the Commonwealth and each of the host jurisdictions had agreed, for year 1. The bilateral agreement also provides a direction to the agency on how we prioritise people's entry into the scheme. So it says: 'In the first month or in the first quarter you will phase these people in.' That varies between the launch sites. For example, South Australia has said zero to 14 over the launch period; we will start with zero to three in the first year. Victoria has done it by particular programs. New South Wales is doing it in the Hunter by particular providers. We are working to these bilateral agreements, which direct the agency on the people who we first access into the scheme, in taking to the scheme.
Senator SIEWERT: I am a bit confused by that answer.
Mr Bowen : If you go back to that first number I gave you, the bilateral intake estimate—the 2,208—
Senator SIEWERT: That was the estimate.
Mr Bowen : That is in the total of the four bilateral agreements with the launch sites and that number is to moot an agreed funding base. It is then broken down into expected number of state-disability-services people coming in, in each of the month or the quarter, and you include Commonwealth clients and mental-health clients.
Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, now I am back. In that case, if the average expenditure is higher than expected, which it is, what does that then mean for the bilateral agreement and the agreements over the expenditure that was agreed at the time?
Mr Bowen : The bilateral agreements provide that the Commonwealth is on-risk for higher numbers or higher average package cost.
Senator SIEWERT: So we keep going now to meet the targets, and the Commonwealth picks up that difference.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you able to give us a breakdown for the different launch sites, for the different states?
Mr Bowen : Yes. These numbers on the estimates are out of bilateral agreements—those bilateral agreements are public documents; they are on the COAG website—and then we will give you the performance against those numbers.
Senator MOORE: Later today.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the 'performance against those numbers'?
Mr Bowen : The numbers we have actually taken in, how many of people who have come to us, how many access—
Senator SIEWERT: The problem I have now is that we do not have the individual numbers for the states, here. In the table, that you tabled, are you able to give us those? Is it against each of the agreements for the bilats?
Mr Bowen : Yes, it is; but we just need to produce it as accurate to the end of the quarter.
Senator SIEWERT: Sorry?
Mr Bowen : We will just compile it to the end of the quarter. We are doing that now.
Senator MOORE: What date is the end of the quarter?
Mr Bowen : It is 30 September.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the number of access requests that were deemed ineligible is anybody going through the process of challenging those decisions?
Mr Bowen : There are some internal review applications—I will have to find you the number. To my knowledge no-one has lodged an application to the AAT at this stage.
Senator SIEWERT: But they are going through the internal processes?
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the planning process were there any that went through a supported decision-making process?
Mr Bowen : People have the opportunity to bring with them someone to assist them in the process of having that planning discussion. They also have access to agency local area coordinators to assist and participate in that planning discussion. The only restriction we have put upon it—and we occasionally waive this restriction—is that we have a strong preference against service providers coming in as a supporter for the person who is a participant in the scheme, because it tends to lead to the planning discussion being around what additional supports that service provider can give.
Senator SIEWERT: I was thinking more of the formal process of supported decision making.
Mr Bowen : There is no formal process of supported decision making. The proposals for supported decision making that have been looked at in protective jurisdiction are currently being piloted in Victoria and New South Wales, and there was a small pilot in South Australia. The agency is discussing with the Public Advocate in Victoria and the Public Trustee in New South Wales extending their current pilots into the launch sites. We would provide some financial support for that to occur. But, in the absence of that, the agency does have an obligation to provide assistance to people who may need assistance to participate in the planning process. If someone makes that known to us, we will include that as the first element of their plan—so, in effect, we will provide that support.
CHAIR: What percentage of people have sought support?
Ms Carmody : We do not systematically collect who is part of the planning processes. From reports from the sites, I understand that a large number of people bring trusted friends and family with them to the process. But it is not systematically reported—it is in the free text section of the ICT system—and it would have to be manually extracted. That would be quite an onerous task to do.
Mr Bowen : And the circumstances in which we have waived our preference not to have service providers is where the person has no-one in their life other than the provider.
Senator MOORE: What do you mean when you say it would be an onerous process to keep that data?
Ms Carmody : It would be an onerous process to extract that from the free-text part of the ICT system.
Senator MOORE: There is no codified area to say whether they are accompanied or not?
Ms Carmody : That is correct.
Senator MOORE: Is that something that could be looked at into the future?
Ms Carmody : We would have to do a system change.
CHAIR: You would appreciate that there have been concerns amongst organisations representing people with intellectual disability that the way the system is currently functioning is not providing sufficient supports to them.
Ms Carmody : Our training to our staff is very clear in this space: they must take those factors into account and ensure supports are with people who need it. It is not only when they ask for it; if there is an observation that they could be assisted through the process, our staff will arrange that.
Senator MOORE: If we felt that was an important enough issue, because of the discussions we have had with people about self-ownership, those who need support and who the support is, because that came up consistently this committee had, would that be part of the review and could people feed that in at that stage before it went on?
Mr Bowen : Let me just say a little bit on this issue. The board of the agency has had a number of discussions around the Sector Development Fund. It thought that one of the priorities of that fund should be to build the capacity, including organisational capacity, of people and their families to participate in the process. So the board has asked the agency to look at and bring back proposals about establishing disability support organisations to fit into this space. I would note that in the Barwon area there is an organisation already playing that type of role, so we are testing that already.
Senator MOORE: Do you know how that organisation is being funded to do that job?
Mr Bowen : The agency would fund it.
Senator MOORE: Your agency would fund it; you have that component.
Mr Bowen : We actually have a statutory obligation to assist people participate in the planning process.
Senator MOORE: So it is assistance to participate as opposed to advocacy?
Mr Bowen : As opposed to advocacy.
Senator MOORE: Sure, I just wanted to—it was quite sensitive. Going back to the thing about the change to needing assistance, if people thought that was serious enough to ask for, it should be asked for along the way so that it could be part of the review before you move any further.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: You were talking about having a review of the process around reasonable and necessary support. Would you take me through whether you have started that process yet and how you intend to do that?
Mr Bowen : We have started that process. The intention is that the outcome of a planning discussion is that a person will have funded supports that assist them with their core needs and also assist them with 'achieve goals' that move them towards independence or greater economic and community participation. The functional impairment assessment component of that planning and assessment discussion is done through our planners using our support needs assessment tool. That tool references back to reference packages which the Productivity Commission produced. Those reference packages underpin the costing and funding of this scheme. They relate to people by diagnosed condition and then a need for support and the frequency of that support need in five different domains.
What we are doing at both sides of those reference packages is that on one side we are looking at what diagnostic information may be available for some disability that would assist us to tighten the reference packages. By tighten, I mean that when you go into them there is a very big range to get through an individualised package. A good example of that is for someone has a spinal cord injury then the level of the lesion—that is, the point on the spine—plus the ASIA score, which is how complete is that lesion, is an extremely good indicator of what sort of functional impairment the person will have and is therefore an extremely good predictor of need. That is true for other diagnostic information in the area of brain injury and stroke, cerebral palsy, motor neurone, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis. There is not good diagnostic indicators in the areas of intellectual disability or on any of the spectrum disorders. So it is not the case that we are trying to recreate a diagnostic entry, but we are trying to make use of good diagnostic information to help clarify those reference packages. The application will still be around an individual at a point in time, because it is not just functional impairment that leads to reasonable and necessary support; it is about first sustaining and then maintaining their family and informal supports. The agency has an obligation to take that into account before determining the funding packages. So we are working on that side of the equation as well.
Senator McLUCAS: I want to go through some of the figures of the rollout. Ms Carmody, you might be able to help me in terms of the data that you do collect. I am not sure how you are collecting the data. You clearly count the number of walk-ins. That is on the table that you have given us.
Ms Carmody : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Do you count the number of hits on the DisabilityCare website?
Ms Carmody : Yes, we do.
Senator McLUCAS: Could you provide that to us on notice?
Ms Carmody : I could do it on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: How do you count the number of people who are using the My Access Checker? Do you count that?
Ms Carmody : Yes. The My Access Checker is available on our website. We are able to tell how many people start the process and finish the process. That is administrative data that we collect.
Senator McLUCAS: Could you provide that to us on notice?
Ms Carmody : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Do you count the demographics of the eligible participants—age, gender, Aboriginality and CALD community?
Ms Carmody : Yes, we do have that.
Mr Bowen : For the participants?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes.
Mr Bowen : We certainly do not have it for every walk-in.
Senator McLUCAS: No; for the participants.
Mr Bowen : Special requests, in other words?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes.
Ms Carmody : We do have that.
Senator McLUCAS: So you would be able to disaggregate that table into—
Ms Carmody : All of it?
Senator McLUCAS: No, not all of it; only the successful or completed plans.
Ms Carmody : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Only completed plans?
Mr Bowen : We should be able to do it from access requests.
Senator McLUCAS: Access requests?
Ms Carmody : Yes. I have participant data but we should be able to do it—
Senator SIEWERT: Access requests do not give us the number of the—
Senator McLUCAS: So you could do it on access requests and completed plans?
Senator SIEWERT: Given that we were talking about Victoria's particular high needs, I was going to ask for a breakdown against each.
Senator McLUCAS: Are there any other demographic indicators that you collect that I have not thought of?
Senator Fifield: There are so many responses to that?
Senator McLUCAS: I said 'that you collect'. It is not make-work time. So you collect age and gender?
Mr Bowen : We can look at the demographic. We collect the nature of the disability. We intend to collect whether there is a secondary disability or comorbidity. We also can provide a breakdown of the completed plans by expected area of expenditure—whether that is personal care, mobility support or the like.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you also split it by disability type?
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: I suppose it is a reasonably high level. Can you break it into that fairly high level for disabilities? Could you also provide the financial value of funded support by state—the average package by state—and then split it by disability type?
Mr Bowen : Yes, we can do that.
Senator McLUCAS: Can we see the number of reviews by state that you have had?
Mr Bowen : The internal reviews?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes.
Mr Bowen : Applications for internal review?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes.
Mr Bowen : Sorry, Senator; do you mean where someone is dissatisfied and they are seeking an internal review or where they have asked for a review of their plan?
Senator McLUCAS: The first one.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: I understand there are weekly reports that are provided to the state governments. Could we receive a copy of those on a routine basis?
Mr Bowen : We have stopped doing the weekly reports now that we are creating quarterly reports. We were providing those in lieu of there being anything else to report on. We are now into a statutory reporting cycle which requires us to do this on a quarterly basis. The weekly reports were an administrative production from within the agency. We are really keen that the only information we put out into the wider domain is that which has been looked at and signed off by the scheme actuary. So we will do it on a quarterly basis.
Senator McLUCAS: Okay. And they are published, are they?
Mr Bowen : The first quarterly report has to go to the standing council, because of course this information is also owned by the states. But I believe that the agency's recommendation will be to make it public and the minister has indicated very strongly his view that this should all be transparent.
Senator McLUCAS: So that quarterly report was at the end of September. That is still with the standing council.
Mr Bowen : It has to go to the standing council.
Senator McLUCAS: And that is done out of session, I suppose.
Mr Bowen : There is a date for a standing council meeting—in December, I believe.
Senator McLUCAS: And then we would expect it to be published after then.
Mr Bowen : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: The standing council does not meet every quarter, though—
Mr Bowen : No, I think after that—
Senator McLUCAS: We will get a routine publication of those reports, I expect?
Senator Fifield: Could I indicate on behalf of the government that we are keen for the maximum amount of transparency but we will take on notice exactly what can be provided and when. We are mindful of some of the requirements that the Commonwealth has in relation to data, which I guess the states have a sense of ownership of as well. We do not want to do anything that would prejudice the good Commonwealth-state relations. Having that caveat there, obviously we have got to work cooperatively with the other jurisdictions, but we are keen to provide the maximum information we can, consistent with that.
Senator McLUCAS: We will follow up after the standing council in December. I think you did provide waiting time information earlier to Senator Siewert, didn't you?
Senator SIEWERT: We have been through the number of days.
Senator McLUCAS: That is all I need in terms of data, thank you.
CHAIR: During the election campaign the then government minister announced that the NDIS, or what they then called DisabilityCare, would roll out by mid-2016 in Tasmania, in Adelaide, in Casey, Hume, Brimbank and greater Bendigo in Victoria; North Coast, Central Coast, Western Sydney, south Sydney, Hills District, Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Bathurst, Mudgee and Queanbeyan in New South Wales; Brisbane, Moreton Bay, Logan, Ipswich, Bundaberg, Townsville and Cairns in Queensland. Were there any signed agreements with the relevant jurisdictions about these being the next rollout sites?
Dr Hartland : There were no intergovernmental agreements.
CHAIR: Why was that?
Dr Hartland : They were in the nature of election commitments.
CHAIR: So they were just—
Dr Hartland : I think you could interpret them as the minister's intention to negotiate if the then government was returned.
CHAIR: What were the criteria that were used to determine what those locations might have been?
Mr Innis : Senator, we cannot comment on what was said during an election campaign.
Senator Fifield: Chair, I think it is important to remind the committee that no jurisdiction—not even the Commonwealth—can unilaterally declare what the next geographic rollout will be beyond the launch sites, and that the NDIS is a cooperative venture of the Commonwealth and the states and territories. The states and territories are shareholders in the scheme as well. There can be no rollout schedule, not even an indicative one, unless it has been duly negotiated and agreed with the other jurisdictions. So the announcements, or what I tend to call 'phantom schedules', that Ms Macklin announced had no standing in the eyes of the jurisdictions and no standing in relation to the scheme itself.
Senator McLUCAS: I think the intention was very clear: to indicate to the community that the former government was very committed to full rollout. Minister, can I ask the question: does your government commit—
CHAIR: Sorry, Senator McLucas, I was in the midst of asking some questions. So we have here about 20 spots that were worked out with about four states, but none of that had actually occurred. There had been no discussions with those jurisdictions about those sites, is that correct?
Dr Hartland : We are not aware of all the discussions the then minister had. We know what state officials have told us, but they were not involved in discussions so we cannot comment on other discussions the minister had.
CHAIR: So state officials had not been involved in discussions about those sites. The sites had not been agreed and the cost was unknown. I just asked also about the criteria that would be used: what criteria from the then minister would have been used to determine those locations?
Dr Hartland : I don't think that the department can, or ought to, try to speculate on what was the motivation of announcements during the election campaign.
CHAIR: But there must be criteria for how you go about choosing a site.
Dr Hartland : Well, there would be a range of criteria that might be used. If we were asked to do a briefing on that, then we would of course propose criteria, but we are not in a position to reveal to you the then Minister Macklin's process.
CHAIR: But was it a formal process, with formal criteria?
Senator SMITH: Was it a ministerial process as opposed to a department process, Mr Hartman?
Mr Pratt : I think we can remark on what we as a department did during that period. I am taking from Dr Hartland's responses there that we did not know or did not contribute to that process pre-caretaker period. And of course, during the caretaker period we would not be involved with the then minister in determining such things—because we were in caretaker mode.
Senator Fifield: For the benefit of the committee, Chair, I can share that during that period I spoke to a number of state ministers who were completely unaware of these supposed—
CHAIR: The largesse about to be delivered to them.
Senator Fifield: phasing agreements. The first that the state jurisdictions had heard of them was when they saw wire story reports of the issue of press releases in particular areas. And I again emphasise that no jurisdiction can just unilaterally declare what should be next. But the important point is that this government is committed to the full rollout of the NDIS, and to implementing the duly negotiated bilateral agreements. I think it was a disservice, and misleading, for former Minister Macklin to present her press releases as though they constituted agreements.
CHAIR: Given that one of the biggest concerns in this area is trying to manage expectations, I think it is very poor form to develop expectations that they were not able to meet.
Senator SMITH: Just on your point, Chair, and just so that we are clear: the minister was making media statements about sites where she had not engaged in any discussions with state governments, when on Mr Hartland's advice she had not been engaging her own department about the appropriateness of those sites, or putting them through any departmental due diligence. Minister, is that an accurate statement from your perspective?
Senator Fifield: In the broad, that is right. What it comes back to is that the next phasing, beyond rollout, will be—and it always was the intention that it would be—the subject of negotiations between jurisdictions. There is no other way for the next phasing to occur unless negotiations happen and the jurisdictions agree. Those negotiations have not happened.
Senator McLUCAS: I heard you before, Minister, saying the government is committed to full rollout of the scheme. That is great. What has happened since the new government has come into office? What negotiations and what deliberations have occurred with states and territories about next steps?
Senator Fifield: As you would be aware, there are a number of bilateral agreements with the jurisdictions, most of which commit the Commonwealth and those jurisdictions to full rollout. Obviously that is not the case with Western Australia as yet, as you know. There will be a process, which will be informed by launch site experience, of negotiation that will involve a scheduling beyond the launch sites.
Senator McLUCAS: Have you asked the department to continue with the work through the intergovernmental agreement process? What have you asked the department to do to progress full scheme rollout?
Senator Fifield: The department are aware that we are committed to full rollout and the department will pursue negotiations with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. As you would recall, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet have been the lead negotiators with the first ministers' departments. That process will continue.
Dr Hartland : Work certainly has not stopped post the election. There is a substantial amount of work to be done bedding down the arrangements with launch jurisdictions. We talk to them regularly on a bilateral basis. Officials are still working on policy issues and meet regularly. We are preparing now for the standing council, which will occur early in December. There are discussions about finalising either bilateral agreements or the schedules attached to those for Western Australia, Northern Territory and the ACT. So there has certainly been no slowing in the pace of discussions with state officials in relation to this work post the election.
Senator SMITH: I preface my comments by echoing something that you said, Mr Bowen—that we are only in the first quarter of what will be many quarters to the first full rollout. I absolutely appreciate that point. What some of us are keen to do is get a clearer understanding about whether or not the estimates and the modelling and those sorts of things in the early stages were as accurate as they could be and, if they were not, why not and, more importantly, what that means for future risk to the taxpayer. Looking at this document you circulated, I just want to be clear that what we are looking at here in the first column, under 'bilateral', is the agreement reached with each of those states—South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania—about the number of plans that would be completed. Is that right?
Mr Bowen : I can give you that figure.
Senator SMITH: No, I want to know if we are measuring the bilateral agreement by the column under 'walk-in', the column under 'access', the column under 'access determinations' and the column under 'access determination underway'—'or plans completed' or 'plans underway'. I am trying to work out what we are measuring there.
Mr Bowen : The bilateral agreements do not specify that it is 'plans completed'. 'Plans completed' is the best indicator that correlates to the funding agreement. But, if you break down that bilateral number for one month, you could not say that in one month we could take in a whole month's group of people, do the access request, complete the plans and the like. In fact, I think really it should have been allowing for a start up with the launch sites for next year. Bilateral agreements recognise this, although the draft ones that have been developed recognise that there needs to be a start-up time and a phasing-in time. We will not achieve completed plans in accordance with the bilateral schedule; in effect, when we are running at full bore, we will be about six weeks behind—that is, about 30 working days.
Senator SMITH: The reason I ask is because on 11 November there was a story in the Australian newspaper. I do not know what the source of the statistics in that report were, but that Australian newspaper said that in New South Wales there would be 1,080 plan completed, in Victoria there would be 1,639 plans completed and in South Australia there were 681 plans that would be completed. But on your evidence, in fact there are only 259 plans completed in New South Wales, only 364 plans completed in Victoria and only 145 plans completed in South Australia.
Mr Bowen : Yes, those are actual numbers. In relation to the report in the Australian, there was also a reference to the estimated numbers; but that those estimated numbers did not actually align with the bilateral agreements.
Senator SMITH: Right, exactly.
Mr Bowen : The other point worth noting on this is that the period of the intake is different for Tasmania and Victoria, as compared to the other states. We expect that virtually all of the bilateral numbers to come in in the first year and then all will age in the scheme. In Victoria, we expect the whole group to come in in the first 15 months; but in New South Wales and South Australia, the numbers are spread over the whole three years.
Senator SMITH: So yesterday the minister gave a speech at the National Press Club and in that speech he said that there were 921 people in the scheme with completed plans, but the bilateral agreements with the states had a target of 2,280 to that period. So that is accurate?
Mr Bowen : We have got the total. If you added the total up from the bottom, that should be right.
Senator SMITH: Yes, so that is 2,280 and 921. That is exactly right. The minister went on to say that the number of people registering an interest in participating in the scheme across the launch sides is 3,222, which is 50 per cent more than the expected number of participants for the period of 1 July to 30 September. Then, of course, you have already talked about the larger than expected average cost of the plan. I am keen to understand—knowing that information now and knowing that perhaps original estimates were not as accurate as they could have been or should have been—how we are starting to look at managing future risk and where does that future risk exist in the scheme, so that there are not these potential blowouts in costs that could undermine the integrity of the scheme?
Mr Bowen : The work that we do applies a full-scheme cost estimate to model the launch sites and to look at package costs, so that we want to be able to say to the minister and to all of the governments—
Senator SMITH: And to the taxpayer.
Mr Bowen : is what happens in launch will impact or not impact on the full-scheme cost in this way. That is really the critical point of our analysis, to try and take that out. For example, the 50 per cent of additional people walking in is undoubtedly a product of the attention that the scheme got with the new numbers that were allowed for in the bilateral agreement. It was sort of like rounding numbers, yet in effect you would expect a lot of people who not are currently getting services to come in early. If those numbers keep up, we will have a problem.
Senator FIFIELD: I might add this, Senator, in relation to your question about risks and any potential further exposure to the Commonwealth. I will ask the agency and the department to expand upon this. But an error has been identified in the South Australian bilateral launch agreement. It contained an estimate of the number of children in South Australia who would be participants in 2015-16 and that that figure would be 5,000. The agency have advised that that figure, in their best estimates now, is likely to be double that.
Senator SMITH: So the original estimate was 5,000 and it now looks like it could be 10,000.
Senator Fifield: That is right; a bit over 10,000. If those estimates are correct, and I emphasise that both figures are an estimate, the 5,000 and 10,000 figures, over launch, there could be an additional liability to the Commonwealth of $200 million.
Senator SMITH: That is just in the South Australian launch site?
Senator Fifield: That is right.
Senator SMITH: There are four launch sites.
Senator Fifield: Four that commenced on 1 July.
Senator SMITH: Yes. So if there is a similar risk in the other three launch sites and a similar exposure to the Commonwealth, that is getting up to $800 million in additional exposure because original bilateral agreements were not as sound as they could have been.
Senator McLucas interjecting—
Senator SMITH: I think what the minister has shared is a very powerful first case in South Australia.
Senator Fifield: All I can do is provide the advice that I have received from the agency in relation to this particular launch site—
Senator SIEWERT: How did you work out there is an extra 5,000?
Mr Bowen : It was important for us with our actuary to rebaseline the expected numbers and to look at that against the bilaterals. We have done that for the four launch sites. In doing so, we have used two alternative methodologies. One used a population base where we divided the numbers by the numbers of the region or the cohort. We also overlaid that by looking at some ABS data around people who reported that they needed support with a core limitation—effectively, people who are reporting that they need daily support in an activity. We are using that report for daily support as a better indicator because using the ABS data we can break it down and identify—
Senator SMITH: ABS data is available because it is ABS data. Why is this a new element, a new feature, and why was this sort of statistical information not included originally?
Mr Bowen : I am going to answer the question on how we have recalculated it. So that is what we have done. For example, using the South Australian one as an indication, the bilateral agreement is for 5,085. If you use a population estimate that the number of children should be 8,374, our current estimate is that it is 10,712.
CHAIR: Are they the people who simply did not bother being on the waiting list because there were so few services to be had?
Senator SIEWERT: Unmet need, in other words.
CHAIR: Yes, the unmet, unmet need.
Mr Bowen : I do not have an explanation for the variation; I am just telling you what we have come up with. The numbers in New South Wales and Tasmania look reasonable in the agreement. There is a slightly larger number in Victoria. The big variation is the South Australian number.
Senator MOORE: What about Tasmania?
Mr Bowen : The Tasmanian numbers are correct but the bilateral agreement did not allow for their young people ageing in the scheme—it is a 15- to 24-cohort. It did not allow that at the end of that three years there would be 26-year-olds in it. So there is an additional cost of the factor of ageing in the scheme.
Senator MOORE: Yes, we understand that, but we have to look at all the data.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand what you are saying, but the point with the 10,000 is that there are still people who need support.
Mr Bowen : What we are saying—and I think this is the important thing—is the impact of this is that over launch the numbers derived were using a full-scheme methodology. So, if you applied our numbers to every region and added them up, they would be consistent with the full-scheme funding estimates. We have tried to break it down. Again, it is important, when I alert the minister to these sorts of problems, to say: is this just a launch problem or is this a compounding problem through to full scheme? But it is a fairly significant launch problem.
Senator Fifield: It is important to launch but, having said that, it is a significant number and it is important to draw it to the attention of the committee. I think it should also be observed that the South Australian bilateral launch agreement was negotiated by the previous government, not by the agency or the board of the agency who assumed their positions after that negotiation was completed.
Senator SMITH: Just going to the issue of risk more broadly, is there an external risk adviser being appointed? Is the risk management approach being run internally? How are you handling those further risks?
Mr Bowen : There are quite detailed rules under the legislation around financial sustainability and risk management. The board has set up a sustainability committee. We have appointed a scheme actuary. We have the Australian Government Actuary as the reviewing actuary, so we will be able to use this data analysis to report on risk variation and how it is trending over time.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to ask about two areas. There is a lot more that I will put on notice. Issues have been raised with me about the link between when people are assessed to go under the scheme and accepted into the scheme and when they get fully funded, and their supports through Centrelink. I understand the efficiency of the system. It is about Centrelink being notified and then people getting cut off. Can you clarify whether the situation has been fixed? I have had people telling me they are not getting money yet under NDIS and they have had their supports cut off.
Mr Bowen : This circumstance has arisen where a plan has been completed and a person has been notified that they have the plan. We assume financial responsibility from that point. We also notify other programs which have been rolled in, and they cut people off. What has happened in some cases is that, in having a plan approved, people have not necessarily gone out and started engaging their supports under that plan. There has been a time lag between the plan approval and when they have started to engage in new support, and in some cases that has meant—
Senator SIEWERT: They haven't got any money.
Mr Bowen : that their existing supports have cut out. Our local—
Dr Hartland : I think we need to contextualise this slightly, Senator. I hope Mr Bowen will correct me if I have the wrong end of the stick. This is not for their entire income support payment. This is for [inaudible] and as for mobility allowance when they also get, effectively, that payment through their NDIS payment.
CHAIR: I think Senator Seselja had a couple of questions on income support, and state stuff too.
Senator SIEWERT: Can we just keep this as being fixed, though. There might be some state allowances. Can we just check? I want to know that it has been fixed because I have had other cases where, in fact, they have not even had their plans approved. It seems to be as they are going through the process.
Mr Bowen : There is no circumstance where anyone would be cut off from existing supports prior to having a plan approved, and notification to the other agencies only happens upon plan approval.
Senator SIEWERT: I am sorry, Mr Bowen. That is not true.
Mr Bowen : Senator, I think you will find circumstances where they have had a plan approved but they have not triggered it.
Senator SIEWERT: Let us not argue about it here. What I want to know is whether it has been fixed or not.
Mr Bowen : The circumstance is that once that plan is made the supports should come through the plan. We now have our support officers and our local area coordinators trying to work closely with people so that they engage the supports under their new plan.
Ms Halbert : There was for a short period a glitch as to when the system was notifying the Department of Human Services and yes, it has been fixed.
Senator SIEWERT: Thanks. That is what I wanted to hear. How is WA going? When do you expect the launch site in WA to be up?
Dr Hartland : The middle of next year. Discussions on intergovernmental agreements and the national partnership that underpin that are nearly done.
Senator SIEWERT: We were going to have the two sites. Is the information from the My Way process going to be released as you release the stats on the other trial site?
Dr Hartland : I would imagine so, yes. We have not quite nailed that down exactly, but there will be a steering committee and a consultative committee for the My Way and NDIS sites in WA. So you would expect the minister to be involved in that and for his commitment to transparency to go west as well as east.
Senator SESELJA: I understand that the agreement with the states and territories is that they provide for both in-kind and new money. How much is in the form of in-kind services versus cash? Is there a broad split?
Dr Hartland : The split is different for each state depending on the nature of their services. I think what the Commonwealth has agreed to committing in-kind is publicly available. I do not have the actual percentage. Jill might.
Ms Moses : I do not have the percentages here, but I do have the splits between cash and in-kind for each year for each of the jurisdictions.
Senator SESELJA: Could you briefly take us through that.
Ms Moses : Perhaps I will just goes through 2013-14 and table the rest.
CHAIR: Yes, that would be fine.
Ms Moses : In 2013-14 in New South Wales cash is $13.5 million, in-kind is $2.3 million and repayment of Commonwealth grants is $5.5 million. In Victoria cash is $15.5 million, in-kind is $5.9 million and repayment of Commonwealth grants is $7.5 million. In South Australia cash is $2.5 million, in-kind is $0.2 million and repayment of Commonwealth grants is $0.7 million. In Tasmania cash is $3.9 million, in-kind is $0.5 million and repayment of Commonwealth grants is $1.2 million.
Senator SESELJA: Have there been any difficulties with in-kind support in terms of planning and implementation, or has that been quite smooth?
Dr Hartland : No, I think you would characterise it as difficult.
Senator SESELJA: It has been difficult, has it?
Dr Hartland : Yes.
Senator SESELJA: Is that leading to a rebalancing or are you working through those difficulties with the implementation of in-kind support?
Dr Hartland : We are working at both ends.
CHAIR: Why is it difficult?
Dr Hartland : It is very hard for the agency to manage. They have to have knowledge about a place in the service as well as what the participant wants. Joining those two up administratively is actually really hard. The agency has found it very hard to know when they are talking to someone if they refer them down the road to a service whether that will actually be available and funded. Accounting for that is quite complex. The agency is looking at how you administer that and whether you can improve that. I think the Commonwealth's view would be that the sooner we can cash out programs and get out of the in-kind world the simpler it will be and the better it will be for participants, providers and the agency.
CHAIR: That brings us to the end. I think we could probably go on for a couple more hours in this area—
Senator McLUCAS: I have a question around the full scheme rollout. I think that is really what the committee is wanting to talk about.
CHAIR: The full scheme rollout.
Senator McLUCAS: Yes. Dr Hartland, there was a program—
CHAIR: That is two questions, Senator McLucas. You have known—
Senator McLUCAS: I am going to go back over the Hansard and I am going to have a look at—
CHAIR: Yes, you do that.
Senator McLUCAS: We have had this discussion a couple of times in the last two days—
CHAIR: We have.
Senator McLUCAS: and I am going to do it over this outcome 5.
CHAIR: Great. Thank you.
Senator McLUCAS: Dr Hartland, can you tell me whether the timetable for full scheme rollout that had been previously agreed with various jurisdictions is on track?
Dr Hartland : Yes, it is. There have been no changes to the timetable.
Senator McLUCAS: Excellent. Senator Siewert asked you about negotiations with Western Australia. I understand these negotiations are bilateral, but I feel for how negotiations are going with Queensland and also with the Northern Territory.
Dr Hartland : We are talking to the Northern Territory about the detail of customer numbers and making sure that we get that absolutely right. Having identified a number of areas where there is a risk to customer numbers in other bilaterals, we have determined to get the best estimate we can. We are just finalising that. That will be very close. Queensland do not have a launch as such. They start the transition to full scheme in 2016. Their work at the moment is preparing their sector. We have had some early discussions about the nature of that, so we are working with providers and people to get into a more individualised environment, but we have not talked to them recently about that and we would not anticipate starting those discussions until some time in the middle of next year. Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland—were they the ones that you wanted?
Senator McLUCAS: Yes, that is all we need to know.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator McLucas. Thank you, everyone. We will now move on to outcome 8 on aged care and population ageing.
Senator POLLEY: I would like to place on the record that that just reinforces our concern of the priority that this government and now you are placing on aged care—
CHAIR: I think you need to discuss this with the other non-government senators, Senator Polley.
Senator POLLEY: to reduce the amount of time that I have to seek information in what has been a significant change in restructuring that is affecting aged care. This morning I tried to ask some questions in relation to palliative care to get some clarification. Is it appropriate now to address those issues?
Senator Fifield: Yes, Senator.
Senator POLLEY: Thank you very much. As I said, there has been a change with the restructuring that the government has undertaken. Under the previous government, obviously palliative care and ageing had a high priority. What I would like to seek clarification on is: how much of palliative care now rests with your department as opposed to how much of it is still within the health department?
Ms Smith : In the main, palliative care services are provided by state and territory governments through the health and hospital system. The Commonwealth, through the Health portfolio, supports the National Palliative Care Program, which encourages national approaches in the area of palliative care. In the Ageing and Aged Care Division we have a focus on supporting people in aged care to receive quality palliative care services. That includes training for people who work in aged care in the area of palliative care. As part of the aged-care reform package from last year, there are a couple of palliative care measures. Those measures have always been delivered by the palliative care area in the former Department of Health and Ageing, but we always worked closely with them on palliative care. They have a broader whole-of-life cycle perspective; we have a particular focus on those people who receive aged-care services, and we will continue to work really closely together as we roll out measures in this area.
Senator POLLEY: Have you got any structure or communication plan of how you are going to do that that you can elaborate on for the benefit of the committee?
Ms Smith : The ageing-health interface has always been a really important part of our work. I have really strong relationships with the senior people in many of the health divisions—in the acute care division, in the primary care division and in the population health division, which is responsible for palliative care—so I have always worked closely with those senior people. I will continue to do that.
Mr Pratt : I might add that the Secretary of the Health Department and I have agreed that we will also have a quarterly get-together of senior Health and senior Social Services staff, including the Secretaries, to consider issues of this sort.
Senator POLLEY: Thank you. The Secretary did elaborate on that when we went to that yesterday. Minister, what responsibilities will you take as far as palliative care is concerned, or will it rest with Senator Nash?
Senator Fifield: It is an important part of my role as the minister for ageing and aged care.
Senator POLLEY: Will you take the lead on this or will it be Senator Nash?
Senator Fifield: I will work closely with Senator Nash.
Senator POLLEY: Where in program 8 will it be relevant to speak about dementia issues?
Ms Smith : That will be 8.6.
Senator POLLEY: If I can move on then. I think you would agree that the Living Longer Living Better agedcare reforms went beyond the delivery of aged-care services. They looked at the impact of an ageing population. To what extent is the department able to manage policy and programs to promote healthy, active ageing? The coalition's policy on Healthy Life, Better Ageing says: 'The coalition does not enter into imposed reforms from above.'. How is this consistent with the scrapping of the panel established to advise the government on opportunities that exist to maximise the potential of the ageing population? Referring to the coalition's policy document, it states that: 'The government will immediately establish a high-level Steering Committee to oversee the development and implementation of the five-year Healthy Life, Better Ageing agreement.'. What is the budget allocation for the establishment and running of this committee and how will it be funded?
Senator Fifield: To my understanding, the committee that you referred to, whose activities have now been concluded by the government, sat in the Treasury portfolio. The government has a general approach that where we think a particular organ, or body or committee has served its purpose then we will not be continuing it. That was an example of that.
Senator POLLEY: So you will not be establishing a steering committee?
Senator Fifield: No, no. I am talking about the body that you referred to.
Senator POLLEY: We know that one has been sacked.
Senator Fifield: That is right. But you asked—
Senator POLLEY: I was moving on to what you are going to establish and where that gets its funding.
Senator Fifield: I am addressing both parts of your question. I thought it was important to clarify that that other body rested in the Treasury portfolio. We will be setting up a high-level steering committee. We do want to take a consultative approach to the five-year agreement that we will be negotiating with the sector.
Senator POLLEY: What is the budget for that and from where is it being funded—out of your department—and where will it report to—to you?
Senator Fifield: Yes. It will be funded from within the Department of Social Services and it will report to me.
Senator POLLEY: Who will do the appointments to the steering committee?
Senator Fifield: In the ordinary course of events with these sorts of appointments, while there will be recommendations from relevant ministers, cabinet will have these matters put before them.
Senator POLLEY: Can you outline to us which elements of the Aged Care Act and any other legislation, including the previous Labor government's Living Longer Living Better package, needs to be amended?
Senator Fifield: Our starting point is very much that we want to reduce red tape for the sector. As you know, the less time that people who work in aged care have to spend on paperwork that might not necessarily add value the better. Obviously, we are not going to do anything that will compromise quality of care or safety, but reducing red tape will be an important focus of the agreement that we will reach. You would know in the broad that, when the previous government was putting through their aged-care reforms, the then opposition was supportive, and that is still our disposition. We are looking to hear from the sector about what they think is important and what they think needs to be addressed. As I say, this is not going to be a top down approach from government. What I have found in the disability portfolio is that you tend to get the best advice from people in the sector, and I am sure that will be the case here.
Senator POLLEY: It is a broad brush in relation to red tape; you cannot be specific. You must have something in mind. What consultation has taken place? Who are you planning to consult with and for is the time line?
Senator Fifield: I will be able to share all of that with you, once government has taken decisions on those matters.
Senator POLLEY: Can we look forward to that in February? In relation to the budget and the Commission of Audit, what cuts will impact on aged care?
Senator Fifield: I dispute the parameters of your question: that there are necessarily going to be what you have characterised as cuts. The Commission of Audit is looking at all government departments and agencies. The Commission of Audit is there to help us, to provide advice on best practice. The Commission of Audit will be one of the inputs into the budget—not the only one, but one of the inputs.
Senator POLLEY: I am moving onto 8.1. Living Longer Living Better aged-care reform included $198.2 million over five years to establish an aged-care gateway. The first stage of the implementation was due to commence on 1 July this year and involved a rollout of a national contact centre and My Aged Care website. Where is the rollout up to? I also have a few questions about the website too.
Senator Fifield: Not for personal use, I presume, but out of professional interest.
Senator POLLEY: Flattery will get you everywhere, Minister.
Ms Smith : My Aged Care was introduced on 1 July 2013, and, as you say, it started with a contact centre and a website. Between 1 July 2013 and the end of September the contact centre answered 40,877 calls and the website had 179,350 visits. We are currently in the process of ramping up some of the local promotional activity to increase awareness of the website. Over time we expect that we will get increased usage as increased capability is introduced. We are continuing to work with stakeholders about how the experience has been thus far and the opportunities for improvement. We will be working with them closely as we go to the subsequent stages.
Senator POLLEY: Have you any mechanism for breaking down how many individuals or organisations have used the website and predominantly the services that they are accessing?
Mr Harris : Senator, as Ms Smith said, there have been 179,000 visits to the website. Of those, 65,000 or thereabouts have been returning visitors and about 114,000 have been new visitors. The vast majority of the activity on the website is looking at the service-finders, people trying to find a particular service within their local area. There is a significant amount of activity around general information, residential and home-care support.
Senator POLLEY: Have you had any feedback—consumers finding it easy and friendly and easy to get around?
Mr Harris : Certainly, we are doing some customer satisfaction surveys which cover both the contact centre and the website. Those customer satisfaction surveys at this stage are based around people who do ring through to the contact centre, so it is very much focused around their satisfaction with the service through the contact centre itself. Generally speaking, people are very, very satisfied with the information being provided through the contact centre. We do ask them questions around whether they have used the website. The vast majority of people who ring the contact centre have not used the website but those who have, again, are responding quite positively to the website in terms of the information there and being able to find it fairly easily.
Senator POLLEY: In relation to the call centre, what are the main inquiries and what is the demographic map of those that are using that facility?
Mr Harris : The vast majority of people who are using the contact centre are probably families more than anything else, followed by people who are looking for care themselves. Beyond that, I would have to take anything else on notice in terms of demographics. We would have to look at how much data is being collected from each caller, and obviously it is voluntary in terms of the information they provide so we would have to look at how much demographic data we hold on that. But again, the sort of information that they are seeking is general information on navigating the aged-care system, finding respite care and information on how to get through to an assessment for care, and there are referrals that go out to aged-care assessment teams and to service providers.
Senator POLLEY: If you could take the other on notice, that would be appreciated. Are there any plans for the department to do anything in the way of boosting both access to the information line and the website? Is there any plan to actually raise the profile?
Ms Smith : As I mentioned earlier, we did do a little bit of soft launch with the website and the contact centre to make sure that it was operating effectively. We also had some limitations on what promotional activity could be undertaken during the caretaker period. But now that we are beyond that, we are doing a range of low-key promotional activity at a local level to ensure that people are aware of the service and what it provides.
Senator POLLEY: Do you think there is more that could be done in relation to ensuring that there is adequate access to this website for people from different cultural backgrounds and linguistic skills?
Ms Smith : We certainly accept that making sure that the website is accessible for people of all backgrounds is a critical priority. That is one of the things that we have been working on with the advisory group. We have got a particular strategy that we are developing about increasing that. There are a number of languages where we have translations already, but we are aiming to increase those languages.
Mr Harris : Senator there are seven languages currently and we are increasing that by another 11 very, very shortly. So we will be covering 18 languages where there is translated material available.
Senator POLLEY: Excellent. Is there a single entry point for the aged-care system?
Ms Smith : At the moment there are multiple entry points. That can be a strength for the system but it can also add to the complexity. Through the work we are doing with stakeholders we are developing a national assessment framework which would actually over time move to have, in general, a single entry point. We have also tried to adopt a 'no wrong door' policy so that, if someone does enter the system at a local level, that they are not denied service. So it is trying to balance reducing complexity with having the capacity for people to still find services even if they enter in an unexpected way.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, is it a commitment from your government that you will work towards a single entry to the system?
Senator Fifield: To the gateway? We want to make it as easy as possible for people so that, to the greatest extent possible, we can simplify things for people. We want to do that.
Senator POLLEY: Excellent.
CHAIR: So are we out of 8.1 now?
Senator POLLEY: Senator Siewert might have some questions.
Senator SESELJA: Mine are around 8.1, but I may cross over.
CHAIR: Do you want to ask them now, then?
Senator SESELJA: Yes, I will, but some of them may have been asked because I did miss the beginning of some of that. In relation to the website, were we talking about the My Aged Care website?
CHAIR: Yes, that is right.
Senator SESELJA: I think most of what I wanted to ask there has probably already been put on the record. This one may possibly go back to the general or it might go to another one—but I might ask it now, if that is okay.
CHAIR: Ask it and see what happens.
Senator SESELJA: What is the total number of aged-care places subsidised by the Commonwealth nationally?
Ms Smith : As at 30 June 2013, there were 250,848 residential and community places.
Senator SESELJA: Okay. Are you able to give us a break down by the type of accommodation?
Ms Smith : Of those, 189,761 were residential and 61,087 were community.
Senator SESELJA: Thank you. Are you able to give us an overview of how the Aged Care Complaint Scheme has been progressing this financial year?
Mr Martine : We might ask Mr Scott to answer that question.
Mr Scott : What in particular about the complaints scheme would you like to know?
Senator SESELJA: Let us start with how many complaints you have received.
Mr Scott : In the 2012-13 year, we received just over 3,800 complaints. Overall the scheme received around 12,000 contacts. Of that, there were the 3,800 complaints and the balance were either out of scope or notifiable events. Those would be things around reportable assaults or missing residents.
Senator SESELJA: Sorry—these are those that are not part of the 3,800?
Mr Scott : Yes. There were 12,000 contacts overall for the scheme, of which 3,800 were complaints. We then had around 4,000 contacts which were out of the scope of the scheme and the balance were notification events such as missing residents or reportable assaults.
Senator SESELJA: How many would fall in that last category?
Mr Scott : Notifications?
Senator SESELJA: And reportable assaults.
Mr Scott : We had around 3,200 compulsory notifications.
Senator SESELJA: Just explain to me what compulsory notifications are.
Mr Scott : The two main categories of compulsory notifications are notification of missing residents—providers are required to report to the department when a resident is missing without explanation and the provider has reported that absence to the police. They are required to report that to the department within 24 hours. Providers are also required to notify the department and the police within 24 hours of receiving a report or an allegation of the suspicion of a reportable assaults.
Senator SESELJA: Where people are missing, why is that related to the Aged Care Complaint Scheme? Why does that end up in that box of 12,000?
Mr Scott : The complaints scheme is a readily-identifiable mechanism in aged care for providers. It has a well-understood 1800 number so we use the complaint scheme as the entry point for those notifications. You are quite right—we would see those as separate to aged care complaints, but we report them as part of the contacts to the scheme.
Senator SESELJA: So this is different, then, from the My Aged Care telephone line—or is that one and the same?
Mr Scott : No, the My Aged Care telephone line, I would expect, would be the contact point for the Aged Care Gateway.
Senator SESELJA: Okay. I will come back to that. Just briefly on those 3,800 complaints, is there a breakdown of the nature of those complaints?
Mr Scott : Yes, we do have a more detailed breakdown. We report aged care complaints each year in the Report on the operation of the Aged Care Act, which will be due for publication in the next few weeks. We will be able to take on notice a more detailed breakdown of the complaints.
Senator SESELJA: Are there any trends in the 3,800? In terms of the months and the year, are we seeing it increase or decrease?
Mr Scott : In 2012-13 for the first time in a number of years we in fact had a reduction in complaints. It fell from just over 4,000 in 2011-12 to around 3,800 in 2012-13.
Senator SESELJA: So 4,000 would have been a historical high?
Mr Scott : Yes, it plateaued out around 4,000 in both 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Senator SESELJA: My final question: has the department had to take sanctions against any aged care provider in the past financial year?
Mr Scott : Yes, we have. My recollection is that we issued 17 sanctions in the 2012-13 year. I will go to the right brief and confirm that number.
Senator SESELJA: What are the nature of those sanctions? How serious are the sanctions we are talking about? Presumably fines would be the main sanction?
Mr Scott : In 2012-13 17 sanctions were issued. The vast majority of sanctions—and 2004-13 would not have been any different—are usually for significant quality of care concerns, usually where the accreditation agency has identified serious risk at a site visit and the department has determined that that risk represents an immediate and severe risk to the health and wellbeing of residents. The standard sanctions that we impose in those sorts of circumstances, because they usually relate to quality of care and the delivery of care, will be to require the appointment of a clinical nurse adviser for a period usually up to 6 months. We will also usually impose a sanction preventing the payment of subsidy for any new residents—in effect stopping the entry of new residents until the quality of care has been restored to appropriate levels. In some situations, depending on the nature of the issues identified, we may also impose requirements for staff training.
Senator SESELJA: Is that detail reported anywhere? Are you able to provide those?
Mr Scott : The sanctions are published on the My Aged Care website.
Senator SESELJA: For the convenience of the committee, is it possible for you to provide that data?
Mr Scott : Absolutely.
CHAIR: Senator Polley has questions on 8.2, home support.
Senator POLLEY: My understanding is that the department has assumed full responsibility for Home and Community Care programs, except for Western Australia and Victoria. Is that correct?
Mr Scott : That is correct.
Ms Smith : From 2012. We are negotiating a transition with Victoria that would take effect from 1 July 2015. Senator Siewert will be happy to know that we at least have started talking with WA.
Senator SIEWERT: We issued you a passport, did we?!
Senator POLLEY: Can you advise how many service providers are taking up the HACC programs across other states?
Mr Vincent : It is about 1,000 services in the Commonwealth HACC program. I am just locating the brief. It is 1,041 in the 2012-13 financial year.
Senator POLLEY: Can you break those down for each state?
Ms Smith : We can take that on notice.
Senator POLLEY: Thank you. How is this being managed in Queensland? My understanding is that West Moreton Hospital and Health Service relinquished HACC funding and that the West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local was selected as the preferred alternative provider of the HACC services. Has this occurred across Queensland? Are there any other Medicare Locals providing HACC services in Queensland?
Ms Smith : When we did the negotiation on the transition, we took over the contracts that the state governments had in almost all cases. But, subsequently, some service providers decided to withdraw from delivering services under the HACC program, and that was the case in Queensland. Some of the local health and hospital districts in Queensland reviewed their role and decided that they wanted to get out of being a service deliverer. So the department went through competitive processes in a variety of HACC planning regions to determine alternative service providers. So, yes, Medicare Locals have assumed service delivery in some areas. We would have to take on notice exactly in which regions that is occurring.
Senator POLLEY: If you could take that on notice it would be most helpful. There was no explanation from West Moreton hospital services as to why they made the decision to relinquish HACC?
Ms Smith : I think they have just been considering the future mix of services that they want to deliver.
Senator POLLEY: Can you outline for us what is currently happening with HACC and how it is being delivered in Victoria and Western Australia?
Ms Smith : HACC in Victoria and Western Australia is a joint program, so there is joint funding from the two levels of government, but it is managed by the state government and it is managed under the same arrangements that have been occurring for many years.
Senator POLLEY: Have there been some negotiations as a part of the NDIS rollout in Victoria and Western Australia?
Ms Smith : As part of the NDIS negotiations, Victoria agreed to transition the Home and Community Care program. That will occur from 1 July 2015. We are in the process of discussions with Victorian state government officials about those processes.
Senator POLLEY: Is this adding another layer of bureaucracy to the rollout of HACC?
Ms Smith : No. It is actually meaning that HACC will be delivered by a single level of government, and it is actually enabling the creation of an end-to-end aged care system. So we think that having Victoria and Western Australia joining will be a real benefit for the Home and Community Care program.
Senator POLLEY: Has there been any discussion or planning to go further with NDIS involvement with HACC across the country?
Ms Smith : The agreement between the governments that agreed to a change in roles and responsibilities for the Home and Community Care program said that the Commonwealth would be the level of government that would be responsible for basic community care services for people over the age of 65 and that the states would be responsible for basic community care services for people under 65. Those discussions have then gone on to involve the negotiations on the NDIS. I am not really equipped to answer questions on that.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, have you got anything to add here?
Senator Fifield: Sorry, Chair, I was just momentarily distracted.
Senator POLLEY: I was asking whether or not there is going to be any consideration by the government to incorporate the NDIS and HACC rollout across the country, as is happening currently in Victoria and Western Australia.
Senator Fifield: Are you suggesting in relation to HACC as it applies to people over the age of 65?
Senator POLLEY: Yes.
Senator Fifield: We do not have any intention at the moment to depart from the approach of the previous government.
Senator POLLEY: Thank you very much.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Polley. Senator Siewert.
Senator SIEWERT: On 8.2?
CHAIR: Yes, 8.2 or 8.3.
Senator SIEWERT: No. I would prefer to spend some time on resi care.
CHAIR: Senator Polley, can you do 8.3 in about three or four minutes and then Senator Siewert will do 8.4.
Senator POLLEY: I have questions on 8.4 as well.
CHAIR: What I mean is that she will start.
Senator POLLEY: Yes, definitely. The previous government's commitment to expanding the Home Care Packages Program, offering over 80,000 additional packages over the 10 years to 2021-22, would be achieved by increasing the home care planning benchmark from 27 to 45 packages for every 1,000 people over the age of 70. What is the government's commitment to this benchmark, Minister?
Senator Fifield: I will let Ms Smith talk to the policy.
Ms Smith : Those plans to increase the ratio remain in place. You would be aware that, with the aged-care approvals round that was announced in early July, the first stage of the home care packages was announced: 5,835 new packages were announced. We would continue to expand the program over the coming years.
Senator POLLEY: So what has been the uptake of those packages?
Ms Smith : They are in the process of rolling out through service providers. There was certainly a very healthy interest by service providers in delivering them, because they are aware of the level of interest there is in the community in receiving packaged care at home.
Senator POLLEY: My understanding is that DoHA has been reviewing the current aged-care and HACC planning regions. When do you expect that review to be completed?
Ms Smith : We have been doing work in the area of the planning regions. We have HACC planning regions, which are one geographical area, and aged-care planning regions, which are for residential care and home care packages and which cover a different geographical area. Those planning regions have been in place for a number of years, and in many cases the nature of the local community has changed over time. So we are part way through that process, and I think we would expect to finish the project in the 2013-14 year.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, what is the government's position on the provision of consumer directed care in the home care packages?
Senator Fifield: I think consumer directed care is a great thing, and aged care is going to increasingly head in the direction of consumer directed care. I think one of the things that will probably maintain the pressure for that trend to continue is having the NDIS in the same portfolio as aged care. I think it is fair to say the NDIS and disability in general are further advanced than the aged-care sector when it comes to consumer directed care. So I think that will be a positive and good pressure.
Senator POLLEY: Is there anything that any of the officials can advise the committee of in terms of the implementation?
Ms Smith : The 5,835 packages that were rolled out as part of this year's ACAR had to be delivered on a consumer directed care basis. That follows the completion of a successful pilot in the previous financial year. From now on, every new home care package that is allocated and offered must be on a consumer directed care package basis, and the hope is that by 1 July 2015 all existing packages will also be converted to consumer directed care. We are also going through a process of working to build capacity in the sector about how to deliver consumer directed care, so there are projects that both support consumers in exercising that right to make choices and work with service providers to understand the changes in service models and what they need to do.
Senator POLLEY: Have there been some changes to the guidelines that you can inform us about?
Ms Smith : Yes, that is correct. There was quite an intense process over the last few months to work on new guidelines for the Home Care Packages Program, because we not only introduced consumer directed care into the program but also introduced new levels of care. We used to have two levels of home care packages; we now have four. We had an advisory group that we worked on this with through the National Aged Care Alliance and they were closely involved in developing the program guidelines. We also went out for more broad public consultation. That all started on 1 August, so obviously we are in early days.
Senator POLLEY: I look forward to getting some more information about that.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I follow up the issue around the evaluation. In which jurisdictions was that evaluation undertaken?
Ms Smith : My recollection is that it was actually offered in all jurisdictions. There is a report that is available on the website about the findings of the evaluations, so we can certainly chase it up on the web.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could share the link—I sometimes find things hard to find on a website; there is so much there—that would be useful, because I am starting to get some feedback around some of the providers finding it difficult to manage the transition.
Ms Smith : We will also be evaluating the further rollout of the CDC packages, because obviously we only had a thousand in the pilot. We are now moving to a much larger rollout and we will be evaluating as we go.
Senator SIEWERT: The minister will provide it is the aged care and the NDIS process being rolled out, and I think the reality for providers is different to how they imagined—not even imagined, but how they thought it was going to be. How difficult it is proving to be to adapt their business models is some of the feedback I am getting. I am not saying it should not happen; I am just looking at what is actually happening on the ground.
Ms Smith : We would acknowledge it requires quite a change in culture and business models for providers. Even the innovators in this area would say there are a range of issues you need to work through, which is why we thought it was important to fund a capacity building project. So the two industry peaks are involved in that capacity building project.
CHAIR: I noticed a number, including an article in the Australian Institute of Company Directors magazine recently, of concerning articles suggesting that consolidation and the end of inefficient small organisations is the way to progress in both the area of aged care and disability. Has the department, (a) noticed this trend; and (b) are they concerned by it?
Ms Smith : There probably has been a level of consolidation, particularly in residential care, but there is still a large diversity of providers, ranging from a number of providers that have just one residential care facility through to the very large ones. We think there is a place for a range of providers in the sector, but there is also an imperative to ensure there is a level of efficiency in the providers that are delivering care as well. It will be something that has to be monitored over time.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to go first to the issue around the process of agreement that was mentioned in the Governor-General's speech to parliament. I understand that that is the approach that you want to take now to aged care with providers. Am I understanding that correctly; what is the time frame for implementation; and how are you going to go about it?
Senator Fifield: In terms of the five-year agreement that will be negotiated?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Senator Fifield: It is going to be a broad agreement. As I mentioned before, it will have a particular focus on red tape. We would want to have a steering committee appointed at least by early next year. I think it is important to look at the five-year agreement as a mechanism by which to identify where providers would like reform to go next. There has been a fair bit of change happening—with more to take effect from the middle of next year—so we want to have that bedded down but we also want to have this as a mechanism to help identify where providers think reform should go thereafter.
Senator SIEWERT: That is what I want to try to understand, because that seems to be different. When Senator Fierravanti-Wells was the spokesperson, she talked frequently about an agreement. Certainly the way a number of us interpreted that—in the sector as well—was that it was more along the lines of the pharmacy agreement that was being touted as a model, and it sounds like the sort of agreement you are talking about is not in fact that sort because that is actually about delivery of services.
Senator Fifield: There is a plan courtesy of the legislation that went through the parliament towards the end of the last government. There is a direction for the sector as a whole. You can have too much change. I think we want the opportunity for the changes that are coming through to bed down to and be assessed.
Senator SIEWERT: You hear the agreement. I know what was previously discussed. We have got Living Longer, Living Better, which is a lot of change, as you well know. That was my concern, that we have just started that process of reform and you are layering on top of an agreement. So it is actually looking at the next wave and how to implement what is there.
Senator Fifield: That is the approach that I am taking. There may be different propositions that emerge through our consultations with the sector so I am keeping an open mind. But that is the general template that is in my head.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the time frame for implementing the steering committee?
Senator Fifield: I would like to have it in place by the early part of next year. It may be sooner.
Senator SIEWERT: Presumably it will have the whole range of stakeholders.
Senator Fifield: Absolutely.
Senator SIEWERT: Is it just about residential care or are we also talking about home care as well?
Senator Fifield: I think broad is good. When we talk about care these days we see it as a continuum. It used to be that our mind set was a purely residential focus but I think it should embrace the continuum.
Senator SIEWERT: I will go to the implementation. I know it is early days of Living Longer, Living Better. There was a lot of talk during the development of the Living Longer. Living Better legislation around industry confidence, lack of confidence, investment confidence. Is there any initial feedback yet on that? I saw movement at the back there. Is there any real data feedback yet on that?
Senator Fifield: Officers will correct me or provide additional information but I guess the Aged Care Financing Authority's recent report is the best material that we have to go from so far. A lot of that is seeking to anticipate what might happen once the reforms are there, but it is the best guide that we have at the moment in the absence of having some of these changes take effect.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you getting any representations from the industry around that issue?
Ms Smith : I think obviously the sector knows that there is a lot of change due to occur on 1 July 2014 and they are keen to understand the details of how that will work and understand what it means for their business model. So I think there is a lot of interest and commentary coming from the sector as they seek to understand the import of the changes. One of the things we were talking about through the Senate inquiry process was the issue of certainty and confidence. Clearly the passage of the legislation provided a level of certainty and now we are working through the detail. The minister pointed to the Aged Care Financing Authority's report and I think that was a really important situational report of where they are up to now so that then we will have that mechanism to evaluate the changes over time and see the impact that the reforms are having. One of the bits of data that we have got that is interesting is the 2012-13 survey of aged-care homes. That seems to indicate a significant increase in the amount of proposed new capital works in the sector over the previous year. I think that is a really encouraging trend given some of what has happened in previous years.
Senator SIEWERT: ACFA is going to remain?
Senator Fifield: No plans for anything else.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the workforce supplement—
Senator POLLEY: Before we move to that, can I just ask a few questions? Minister, from your comments so far in relation to red tape, it seems to be all about the providers. What guarantee can you give to us that aged care consumers are actually going to be protected from vastly different pricing structures that some providers may be tempted to do if you cut this red tape?
Senator Fifield: I think cutting red tape is to the benefit of both providers and consumers. As I said before, providers—people providing direct care and support—are engaged in doing administrative tasks that may not necessarily add to quality of care or safety; the more that they are doing that, the less they can be focused on doing what they should be doing. So I think reducing red tape where it is appropriate is to the benefit of consumers, and obviously it is to the benefit of providers as well. So I do not think reducing red tape is a choice between provider interests or consumer interests. We are going to be continuing with the proposal that providers are required to provide information about the products which are on offer, which is an improvement on what currently is. We did have some concerns that some of those requirements that are going to come into effect were a little too prescriptive in relation to things like the numbers of light fittings and all that sort of stuff. So you have to get the balance right but always make sure that you do not compromise on safety.
Senator POLLEY: When you talk about 'red tape', can you be a bit more specific? Are you talking about wounds being dressed and the reporting of that—the reporting of patient care? What are you talking about? Can you answer that, and also: what guarantees are you going to give in terms of pricing—that it is not going to be a matter of providers just implementing a price structure based on the demand and what people are able to afford?
Senator Fifield: Well, there is a range of different sorts of red tape.
Senator POLLEY: Then can you just outline what it is that you have been most concerned about and that you want to see redressed.
Senator Fifield: The best thing to do is to sit down with providers, which I have been doing and will continue to do.
Senator POLLEY: So what did they say?
Senator Fifield: I do not think it is appropriate that I sit here now and give particular rulings on particular documentation or other requirements. That is something that we are going to work through with providers.
Senator POLLEY: It is obvious that there have been a number of issues that must have motivated you to want to put out a press statement saying, 'Change and cut red tape.' So there must have been a priority list that the sector have come to you with. Surely, in the interests of openness and transparency, you can outline to us what those priorities are?
Senator Fifield: I am not seeking to be difficult; I just do not think it helps the process if I sit here now pre-empting the work that we are going to do with the sector.
Senator POLLEY: So, in terms of pricing, what guarantee is the government going to put into place that there will not be a transition to a system whereby providers will be able to have an open ability to charge what they like for aged care and residential care?
Senator Fifield: We are essentially going to be following the same mechanisms that the previous government put in place.
Mr Martine : The important change occurring on 1 July 2014 is in relation to transparency of pricing, and that is going to be quite a significant reform. It is certainly beneficial to consumers. For the first time, prices will be disclosed before potential residents engage in a conversation with the facility about what they may be charged. So that is in the legislation. That will be occurring in the middle of next year.
Senator SIEWERT: I was going to go to the workforce supplement, but I did just want to ask—there were a number of commitments made about studies that ACFA would do as a result of bringing in Living Longer Living Better. Are they still going to be doing that work?
Ms Smith : Yes. The role that ACFA was given in terms of monitoring the impact of the reforms, both on providers in terms of the impact on their business models and on consumers in terms of means testing and access, remains an important part of its role.
Senator SIEWERT: And in home care? We were having that debate on the issue where people on low incomes—not on income support but on low incomes—were going to be disproportionately impacted upon. Is that still going to occur?
Ms Smith : Those commitments remain in place, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: You have abandoned the workforce supplement. I presume you have notified—
Senator Fifield: We have suspended the acceptance of further applications. As indicated pre-election, we are going to have a look at how the remaining $1.1 billion can best be deployed.
Senator SIEWERT: So those who have already started the process, that will continue?
Senator Fifield: Yes, but I will allow officers to go into detail through the process of the applications that have been received and how they have been handled.
Ms Smith : As of 26 September, new applications for the supplement were suspended, but there were a number that had been received before that date and those providers that applied for the supplement on or before 26 September and have been found to be eligible, continue to receive payments of the supplement. One of the things that would need to be considered over coming months is to ensure that ongoing arrangements for those providers are considered as part of the broader policy process.
Senator SIEWERT: I did miss how many had their applications in.
Ms Smith : There were 28 applications received but, of those, nine have subsequently withdrawn. So there are 18 active determinations and one application is pending.
Senator SIEWERT: How many workers would those applications cover?
Ms Smith : We do not have that level of information.
Senator SIEWERT: Are they large providers?
Ms Smith : There are a range of providers—some residential care, some home care, some home and community care. A range of sizes.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the process, from here, Minister, when you say you currently have that under consideration, what is the timeline for that and what is the consultation process?
Senator Fifield: I cannot give you a timeline at the moment and in relation to what the process will be, that is a decision the government has yet to take.
Senator SIEWERT: Of the 18 applications that have been approved, what level of funding is committed under that process?
Ms Smith : Around $5 million.
Ms Balmanno : That is assuming it is a full-financial-year effect for the current financial year.
Senator SIEWERT: What about the out-term?
Ms Balmanno : That obviously depends on the decision of—
Senator SIEWERT: Of course, we changed it.
Ms Balmanno : I just want to be clear that this is the 2013-14 figure.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes. So those applications were for the first year.
Ms Balmanno : Some applications were only for a single year; some applications were for multiple years but depending on what decision government takes about longer term policy, there will need to be decisions about longer term arrangements for those providers.
Senator SIEWERT: For the out years?
Ms Balmanno : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: For those who did apply for the whole three-year process?
Ms Balmanno : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: How many providers have applied for the homelessness supplement?
Ms Smith : I am afraid we do not have any data on that, but we can certainly see what we can get for you on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: It is one I take a particular interest in. If you could take it on notice, that would be appreciated, thank you.
Senator POLLEY: The media release you put out said that the government was going to cut red tape, yet here in evidence you said it is potentially damaging to go through changes and what the cuts would be. Why put out a media release?
Senator Fifield: Sorry?
Senator POLLEY: You put out a media release saying that you were going to cut red tape, yet you will not provide to the committee any examples of what is going to be cut because you said it is damaging.
Senator Fifield: There are two separate issues. One is endeavouring, as we move to the new arrangements of providing greater consumer information, to ensure we get the balance right between ensuring consumers have the information they need, at the same time making sure that providers do not have an unnecessarily onerous burden which does not result in providing any better or more useful information for consumers. In the press release there are some examples as to what we thought was unnecessary information. That is one exercise. A second exercise is looking more broadly at red tape issues across the sector.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, with new transparency and also talking about pricing, what is the government's commitment to older Australians who have limited means to access high-quality aged care?
Senator Fifield: Our commitment is the same as that of the previous government.
Senator POLLEY: Can you be a bit more specific?
Senator Fifield: I will have officers detail those elements of the legislation that was passed by the previous government.
Ms Smith : There is a range of measures in the current Aged Care Act that was strengthened in the recent amendments that protect residents with low means.
Senator POLLEY: I appreciate that. I am familiar with that. Because we are aware of that and we are short on time, has the government sought any advice to change the legislation?
Ms Smith : I think the minister has made his position on the legislation clear.
Senator POLLEY: Can I move to ACFI and the behaviour domain—reflects additional support for those with symptoms of dementia. Can you inform the committee as to the uptake of that supplement, whether or not any concerns have been raised with either the department or with you, Minister?
Ms Smith : It is a dementia and severe behaviours supplement. Senators would be aware that the aged care funding instrument already provides for a level of funding to cater for residents with dementia. The dementia and severe behaviours supplement was designed to capture those residents with more extreme behaviour who may not be adequately captured through ACFI. The new supplement was introduced on 1 August and we have received a number of applications for that supplement. It is obviously a new supplement, a new assessment tool, and providers are adjusting to that new requirement. We will be continuing to monitor uptake and to make sure it is operating as intended.
ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Siewert ): Is there any consideration being given to changes in the ACAR process or are we going to continue allocating decision making around allocation of beds?
Ms Smith : There are no plans to change the broad architecture of the ACAR process. We do think there is an opportunity to consult with the sector about how it is working, if there are processes that are unnecessary as part of that, but there are no plans to change the process of having a competitive round to allocate places.
ACTING CHAIR: It is more the regional part of the process?
Ms Smith : In terms of having aged-care planning regions, of getting local input?
ACTING CHAIR: Yes.
Ms Smith : Yes, we would see that as a continuing part of the process.
ACTING CHAIR: So you are going to continue that but get feedback about how stakeholders think it is working?
Ms Smith : Yes. Some of the providers think that some of the processes are unnecessarily cumbersome. I think it is always a good part of administration to say, 'Is this a process that is adding value or not?'
ACTING CHAIR: You will do a formal consultation process?
Ms Smith : I think as part of the consultations we are having with the sector moving forward we will be seeking feedback—
ACTING CHAIR: Part of this agreement process that is being talked about?
Ms Smith : That may be one avenue, yes.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, you would be aware that the Productivity Commission report Caring for older Australians predicts that we will need three times the aged-care workforce by 2050. Can you outline to the committee the government's strategy for meeting the future workforce needs? The aged-care workforce—as I hope you would be very aware of, as we all are in this room—has a very high turnover and, unfortunately, some of the lowest paid workers in this country. The 2012-13 DoHA annual report, at outcome 4 on aged care, on page 84 lists 'building an appropriately skilled and well-qualified workforce' as one of the challenges. What is being done to address this?
Senator Fifield: I take it from that, Senator, that the previous government did not have that completely sorted.
Senator POLLEY: You are in government now, so you have got to sort it.
Senator Fifield: I know. We have been in government for a couple of months—
Senator POLLEY: Your track record previously was not so good.
Senator Fifield: This issue clearly did not start on the day we came into office. But you are quite right to point out that there is going to be a need for a massive increase in the workforce in the aged-care sector. In parallel with that, we are going to need basically a doubling of the workforce in the disability sector as the ramp-up of the NDIS continues. That is an interesting scenario because we are going to have both aged care and disability seeking often similarly qualified people at the same time. So we have to be very mindful that what we try to do to help in aged care, for instance, may have an effect on what we are trying to do in recruitment in disability, and the reverse is also the case. I am keen to take a broader look. I think having disability and ageing in the one portfolio allows us to take a broader look at the workforce challenges. You are right that making and presenting working in aged care as an attractive thing is an important part of it, as it is in disability. I do not think anyone has yet outlined what the perfect scenario is for addressing the workforce issues in either aged care or disability. You would be aware that there are a number of projects that the previous government initiated—
Senator POLLEY: One of those was the aged care workforce supplement. According to the website, that has been suspended, so what is happening to those applications that were already submitted?
Senator Fifield: That is correct, and we covered off before with Senator Siewert what is happening to those applications. As I indicated before, we are going to have a look at how best to deploy that remaining $1.1 billion. There are some other workforce projects which the previous government initiated. In fact, as I get around the portfolio in both ageing and disability, I am constantly finding new pots of money which are working on different aspects of workforce. I want to take a step back and see if we can bring all of those elements together more coherently as we plan for the workforce for both ageing and disability. If there are particular projects in relation to workforce, I am happy for officers to expand upon them.
CHAIR: Senator, this is your last question. Senator Siewert has questions as well.
Senator POLLEY: We have just started on this, Chair. I have only asked one question. If it was suspended, then you must have some—
Senator Fifield: The supplement?
Senator POLLEY: Yes, the supplement. You have suspended that. One hopes you have an alternate plan. Can you outline to us what that plan is?
Senator Fifield: In relation to the $1.1 billion, we will have an alternative plan for how that money is to be best deployed.
Senator POLLEY: That is just going to go to providers.
Senator Fifield: Separate to that money, there is a bigger issue of workforce planning across ageing and disability, and that is something that is going to be an important focus.
Senator POLLEY: So is the $1.2 billion going to be provided to the providers for them to use for general revenue or is that going to go to ensuring that we have a workforce going forward that is going to be appropriately paid—or at least taking steps towards appropriate reimbursement?
Senator Fifield: I can assure you that the money will be deployed in a way that will protect and seek to improve the viability of the sector and will also work to make the sector an attractive place for people to work in. Beyond that, the government is yet to take decisions.
CHAIR: Senator Siewert, do you have questions in this area?
Senator SIEWERT: No. I asked my workforce questions before.
Senator POLLEY: So can I just continue?
CHAIR: No, not just yet. Do you have questions in 8.6 and do you have questions of the Aged Care Commissioner?
Senator POLLEY: Yes, I do. So I will just continue here.
CHAIR: All right. If you do not want to discuss what you want to do, just go ahead and do it. Senator Polley, we will be cutting off at exactly 4.30 pm.
Senator POLLEY: I will put the rest of the questions on notice. The government cannot escape from scrutiny, Chair. When the coalition's seven-page policy document was released days before the election much was made about, as you have alluded to already, cutting red tape and reference was made to an 'antiquated regulatory process'. What does that actually mean, Minister? How will this work given the coalition's reform includes tough and workable standards for this sector, what standards will be cut?
Senator Fifield: We are not going to cut standards.
Senator POLLEY: There will not be any? Once again, what sorts of process—
Senator Fifield: You equate red tape with standards. I do not equate red tape with equally standards. I do not think we have reached regulatory nirvana in aged care. You might, Senator Polley, but I do not. I think it is always good practice to continually review regulatory arrangements and requirements, and that is what we are going to do.
Senator POLLEY: Are you talking about management systems, staffing and organisational development standards? Are they going to be reduced or cut in the name of cutting red tape?
Senator Fifield: Senator, you can keep saying that reducing red tape is the same as—
Senator POLLEY: You are the one who put out the media release.
Senator Fifield: and inextricably leads—
Senator POLLEY: Minister, you put out the media release. You at least have to be able to be scrutinised before estimates. You have that obligation. Are the health and personal care standards going to be reduced and cut as well? What confidence can the Australian community have in aged care now?
Senator Fifield: We are not going to be reducing standards.
Senator POLLEY: Are the residential lifestyle standards going to be cut?
Senator Fifield: We are not going to be reducing standards, quality of safety.
Senator POLLEY: Are the physical environment and safe systems standards which ensure quality of life and welfare for residents going to be removed?
Senator Fifield: We are not going to do anything that is going to affect or reduce standards, quality or safety.
Senator POLLEY: The coalition's policy indicated, as you recall, that the government may reward providers who have attained and maintained a three-year accreditation over successive periods. Can you guarantee that this would not see any compromise to the quality of care?
Senator Fifield: We will not do anything that will compromise care.
Senator POLLEY: We will put some more questions on notice.
Senator Fifield: You might not like this but there is a large degree of cross party unanimity when it comes to the approach in the aged care sector.
Senator POLLEY: There was, but there is a lot of money spent on review. Why do it for the sake of review?
Senator Fifield: We are not going to review for the sake of review.
CHAIR: We will move to 8.6. Are there questions for the Aged Care Commissioner?
Senator POLLEY: Yes, there are.
CHAIR: How long do you think you might need with the Aged Care Commissioner?
Senator POLLEY: That would depend on how long the answers take, but I have a number of questions.
CHAIR: If you want to have any meaningful time with the Aged Care—
Senator POLLEY: If I can move on to the Productivity Commission's report—
CHAIR: Senator Polley, I am speaking. If you want to have any meaningful time with the Aged Care Commissioner, you probably should call them now, because this session is completely finishing, after going for the 90 minutes that was covered in the agenda at 4.30.
Senator POLLEY: This is a really important area. I do not think that this committee can stifle the inquiry and the—
CHAIR: Senator Polley, I am speaking. The sections on the whole of portfolio and on the National Disability Insurance Scheme were extended extensively on the assurance of non-government senators that other sections could be shortened so that we can fit this into the 14 hours that are allotted for it.
Senator POLLEY: I was not consulted.
CHAIR: I am not seeing any signs whatsoever of your being able to shorten your time.
Senator POLLEY: You are taking up a lot of time now when we could be dealing with putting questions.
CHAIR: If you want to speak to the Aged Care Commissioner—
Senator POLLEY: You are just filibustering on—
CHAIR: we should call them to the table now.
Senator POLLEY: I was trying to do that. Filibustering is just wasting time. Can we move on to the Productivity Commission's report Caring for older Australians, which highlighted—
Mr Pratt : I am not sure whether this will help or not. The Aged Care Commissioner is not actually present. However, we have people here who are able to answer questions about the Aged Care Commissioner. We are prepared to do that.
CHAIR: They are on the agenda. I was not aware that they were not here. I try to make a practice of ensuring that if individuals from agencies and other groups have bothered to come that they get the opportunity to answer questions.
Senator POLLEY: My questions go to Indigenous Australians. The Productivity Commission report Caring for older Australians highlighted that the population needing aged care service is increasingly diverse, with older people from different cultures who have different needs. We are looking at migrants coming to this country and we are looking at those people in rural, regional and remote areas. Older people living in those areas identified as lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians. In July, the government also announced it would develop a national LGBTI aged care strategy to support the implementation of the Living Longer Living Better aged care reform package. The minister at that time, Mr Butler, said he had acted on the advice of the Productivity Commission as well as groups like ACON and the National LGBTI Health Alliance. Can you give us an update as to the implementation of that part of the Living Longer Living Better package?
Ms Smith : There was an important theme around supporting diversity in the aged care reform package. That was in recognition of the fact that people being cared for in aged care are increasingly from very diverse backgrounds. Changes were made to the special needs groups under the Aged Care Act as part of the recent legislative changes. There were also two strategies agreed to, one for culturally and linguistically diverse populations and one for the LGBTI community. They were released at the end of calendar year 2012. Funding was also delivered through the Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing Fund, which supported the sector to provide good quality care to the diverse range of populations they are caring for.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, I seek your comments and assurances in relation to that, because I was most concerned, as I am sure a lot of other people were, that the Treasurer was reported in the Sunday Telegraph in August as saying that training for aged care workers in LGBTI sensitivity is a waste of money and may be axed under a Liberal government. He has been criticised and one would appreciate that leading aged care providers were quite critical of that comment. As well, it was a gross insensitivity to people of diverse sexual orientation and gender. What assurances have we got that the government is going to maintain programs and the priorities and strategies of the previous government, to ensure these people are not going to be disadvantaged?
Senator FIFIELD: I do not have a disposition to disrupt the arrangements that were in place.
Senator POLLEY: Are you disappointed in Mr Hockey's comments? Is he reflecting the government's position?
Senator FIFIELD: I have not seen or heard those comments.
Senator POLLEY: So we have your assurances that sensitivity will be maintained by this government, going forward? It is not part of any process that will be cut?
Senator FIFIELD: We as a government recognise that people in aged care come from different backgrounds, be it people who are LGBTI, or people from a non-English-speaking background, and we recognise that there does need to be appropriate sensitivities in aged care settings for those people.
Senator POLLEY: Moving on to Indigenous Australians. I visited a number of aged care facilities that focus on Indigenous Australians. Can someone from the department outline to me what has been rolled out to ensure that Indigenous Australians have appropriate aged care facilities that meet their cultural needs, and are there any programs or specific training available in the sector?
Ms Smith : We have mainstream facilities under the Aged Care Act that cater for large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients. We also have a particular program called the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Care Program, which is a flexible funding model that enables care to be delivered close to community. I think about 29 of them are delivered in remote parts of the country. We also have a range of specific Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce programs that provide support to services and to staff working with client in terms of ensuring that they are delivering culturally appropriate care.
Senator POLLEY: Minister, as part of your cutting of red tape and the Commission of Audit review, can you advise the committee whether the government and the department are on track to appoint an aged care pricing commissioner?
Senator FIFIELD: Yes.
Senator POLLEY: Do you have a timeline?
Senator FIFIELD: We are on track. Let me advise that the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner is Ms Kim Cull, who has recently commenced in the role.
Senator POLLEY: When did she commence her employment?
Senator FIFIELD: I will ask officers for the exact date.
Ms Smith : She commenced in mid-October.
Senator POLLEY: Can you outline to the committee what if any additional powers she has been granted as part of greater compliance?
Ms Smith : Her powers were outlined in the legislative changes that went through the parliament in June. There are no changes to those powers.
Senator POLLEY: Where is the department at in transitioning to the Aged Care Quality Agency?
Mr Scott : The Aged Care Quality Agency is due to stand up on 1 January 2014. The bills enabling the establishment of the agency also went through, at the end of June. We are well progressed in the processes for the establishment of the agency. We are just finalising the selection process for the new CEO. The agency will stand up as expected and planned, on 1 January.
Senator POLLEY: I will put some questions on notice in relation to aged care and the NBN.
Mr Scott : If I may, I need to clarify something from an earlier response to Senator Seselja. It concerns the number of contacts we have received through the complaints scheme. We have now separately report the compulsory notifications, so they are not included in the 12,000. The non-compulsory notifications we receive, around such things as infectious disease outbreaks, are included. But that is all broken out in the report on the operation of the Aged Care Act. My apologies for not being sufficiently clear.
CHAIR: We will now go to housing.
Senator McLUCAS: I would like to get an understanding of the machinery-of-government changes and understand where Indigenous housing fits now.
Mr Pratt : Indigenous housing is with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and will be covered in tomorrow's estimates.
Senator McLUCAS: All of Indigenous housing has moved across?
Mr Pratt : Yes.
Senator McLUCAS: Can I have an understanding of the staffing levels in housing within the old FaHCSIA, say, on 1 July, or on a date prior to the election.
Mr Pratt : In relation to the mainstream housing function. In other words, excluding the—
Senator McLUCAS: Have you got them disaggregated?
Mr Pratt : They were always disaggregated. We have a separate—
Senator McLUCAS: Mainstream housing, thank you.
Ms Black : At last estimates we reported that we had 136.4 FTE. Our current FTE for housing and homelessness is 115.28. However, the gambling branch is also coming into the group. In terms of the group FTE they bring 20 FTE with them, so in total across the group it is 135. For housing and homelessness specifically, it is 115.
Senator McLUCAS: What future plans do you have in terms of the complement that you will require in housing in the future?
Ms Black : We are just planning on the basis of the work that we have at the moment. We do not have any plans in terms of additions to or subtractions from that.
Senator McLUCAS: Once I have read the Hansard I will have a look at the bit about gambling. I did not quite catch that, but I think we are under a bit of time pressure. In relation to the commission of audit, in other estimates there have been discussions about how branches or parts of departments have been engaging internally. Is there a formal process within the housing and homelessness section for you to participate in the conversation around what the commission may do?
Mr Pratt : Certainly all parts of the department are represented in our discussions around what might be the input to the commission of audit process. That happens at a number of levels in the department. We have an area which is specifically focused on that. You would have seen that from our structure chart. These issues are also being considered by the executive of the department, which includes representation. Mr Lye is the Deputy Secretary in that area. Those perspectives are included; yes.
Senator McLUCAS: I am just looking at how it works within the department. I wanted to be sure that housing is being included. Can I have notice, please, the latest numbers of people by state in receipt of rent assistance, and also the estimated costs over the forward estimates of that payment.
Mr Lye : Can we give that to you on notice?
Senator McLUCAS: On notice is fine. Are there any discretionary grants in the housing section?
Mr Lye : We had a discussion earlier about discretionary grants. We are trying to compile some information to come back to you for the whole of the department.
Senator McLUCAS: Will that identify the housing ones, as well?
Mr Lye : We are working out what we can give you. If you are okay with this, we might provide that once we have it compiled.
Senator McLUCAS: When you say 'what we can give you,' what are the rules around what can be given and what cannot?
Mr Lye : Without going back into the discussion, it is a process that involves the Finance department. We are liaising with them about that. I believe we will have an answer for you.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. While we are on discretionary grants there is a document that is tabled—I think it is on an annual basis—which is called Senate Order 14. It contains a very long list of grants. I have been trying to ascertain, through various sources, what this is a list of. My previous understanding was that it was a list of moneys that had been allocated and provided to applicants for grants, but that is not as clear as I thought it was. Do you know the document that I am talking about?
Mr Lye : I am not overly familiar with the document but I understand it is a list of grants approved, the latest version of which is between 7 May and 28 October.
Senator McLUCAS: Grants approved and money out the door?
Mr Lye : I am not sure of that.
Senator McLUCAS: That is what we are trying to ascertain. This document may assist with the request we made earlier about letters of offer made but contracts not signed. How many briefs on housing and/or homeless issues have been requested by the minister to this point of time? If you take that on notice, that would be fine.
Mr Pratt : We would have to take that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. You might find this a bit harder, Minister, but can you provide the number of meetings that Minister Andrews has had with housing industry and housing sector representatives since being sworn in as the minister?
Senator Fifield: We will take that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: I am surprise you do not have the figure with you, Minister.
Senator Fifield: The extent to which that is able to be collated I am not sure.
Senator McLUCAS: If you could take that on notice, that would be excellent. Is it accurate to say that Minister Andrews has all responsibility for housing and homelessness?
Senator Fifield: Yes, it is. I just paused for a moment because obviously, as the minister with responsibility for aged care, aged-care accommodation is a form of housing but in the sense we usually talk about housing and homelessness, yes, Minister Andrews is responsible.
Mr Lye : Housing supply remains with Treasury but, in terms of the portfolio, housing is, as the minister said, solely with Minister Andrews.
Senator McLUCAS: That is interesting. I did not realise that. You would be aware that one of the so-called redundant advisory groups that have been abolished is the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness. I did ask some questions in finance and public administration about that, but from the perspective of this department what personnel attended those council meetings?
Ms Black : We have a small secretariat that supported the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness. I do not have those details with me, but it was in the order of two to three departmental staff from the secretariat perspective but then obviously other departmental staff attended to present on various things.
Senator McLUCAS: And someone from the old FaHCSIA would attend each of the council's meetings?
Ms Black : That is correct.
Senator McLUCAS: From a departmental point of view, how valuable were the conversations that could be had at such a high-level council?
Mr Lye : I think there the principle of engagement with the sector is a valuable exercise. Over the years obviously it has happened in a variety of ways. We are currently, as result of the minister's announcement at the housing conference on 1 December, looking at options for him about how he might continue to do that. Certainly consultation with the sector from our perspective is very important. Over the years it has taken many different forms, including the Prime Minister's council. We look forward to providing advice on the next mechanism that would occur.
Senator McLUCAS: You are pre-empting me, Mr Lye. Mr Andrews said at the AHURI conference on 1 November that he was considering what forum or engagement model might be best to provide sector based advice on 'social and welfare issues'. That says to me that what is going to be put together is something much broader than a group that is focused on housing and homelessness. Is that your understanding as well?
Mr Lye : We are providing advice to the minister, so it is too early to tell.
Mr Pratt : I do know that Minister Andrews has been, following Minister Fifield's response to your earlier question, doing a great deal of consulting with stakeholders in both the housing and homelessness spaces. We are going to collate if possible who those are, but basically they have occurred in the last couple of months in every state and territory so far other than the Northern Territory. So there is a huge amount of consulting on housing and homelessness issues.
Senator McLUCAS: I agree. My concern, if we have a much broader formal advice group, is that the issues of housing and homelessness will dissipate amongst other issues, but that is a comment. So the minister has—
Mr Pratt : Sorry to jump in, but I think Minister Andrews's intention, though, is to continue to have a lot of interpersonal engagement with housing and homelessness stakeholders, including the state and territory governments, but through other mechanisms, not necessarily just through a council.
Senator McLUCAS: That is a good and proper thing—ministers should talk to sector representatives. My view is that the bringing together of stakeholders into one place for one meeting is a good way to find commonality. One-on-ones are great, but, to really grow an understanding and to grow a unified approach from the sector, bringing those people together to speak is a pretty powerful thing to do. If housing is but one element of a large social and welfare issues forum, there is the potential for dissipation of those issues.
Mr Pratt : I agree. I do not think Minister Andrews, though, is ruling out the possibility of having just such a set of discussions with housing and homelessness stakeholders, but it would be different to the previous Prime Minister's council.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, it is important for the Prime Minister, obviously, to engage on a range of issues. The former prime ministers have deemed it important enough to place that council in Prime Minister and Cabinet—no, that is not true: to report to the Prime Minister. How now do you think your minister will ensure that the Prime Minister is engaged at an appropriate level on these important issues?
Senator Fifield: Minister Andrews will engage the Prime Minister as is needed. As you know—
Senator McLUCAS: So no formal arrangement, just as required?
Senator Fifield: Cabinet is a formal process and Minister Andrews will take to cabinet significant housing issues. Cabinet, as you know, is the pre-eminent body of government. Minister Andrews is at that table and he will use that forum as well as direct interaction with the Prime Minister.
Senator McLUCAS: Who made the decision to abolish the Prime Minister's Council on Homelessness?
Senator Fifield: I will defer to those officers who work more closely in this area.
Mr Lye : It was a decision of government.
Senator McLUCAS: Yes, I accept that—that is why I directed the decision to you, Minister—but was it a decision of Minister Andrews or the Prime Minister?
Senator Fifield: It would have been a whole-of-government decision.
Senator McLUCAS: Someone must have signed a brief.
Senator Fifield: It was a whole-of-government decision. There are a number of councils and committees which the Prime Minister announced at the same time. The best I can do is to say it was a whole-of-government decision.
Senator Ludlam interjecting—
Senator Fifield: Government is made up of people, but, to the extent that we can be more helpful, we will take it on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: It is important. I would like to know who signed the brief on the Prime Minister's council—
Senator Fifield: We will take on notice the decision mechanism.
Senator McLUCAS: Can you confirm how members of the council were notified of the decision to abolish the council? Was it the minister himself who rang, say, the chair or members? Did the minister's staff do that? Was it someone from the department who contacted the members prior to the announcement by the Prime Minister of the abolition of the council? That is a general question to whomever may be able to answer it.
Ms Black : I am not sure about prior, but since the announcement the minister has written to the members of the Prime Minister's council, thanking them for their service on the council.
Senator McLUCAS: Minister, can you indicate if there was any correspondence, telephone calls or any mail—or texts, given your—
Senator Fifield: I do not have any knowledge—
Senator McLUCAS: Could you ask, please? I would like to know whether and how members were notified that their services were no longer required.
Senator Fifield: Yes.
Senator LUDLAM: Some of my questions have been asked already. Who advises the department on housing supply? I spoke to Treasury officials last night and they gave similarly ambiguous answers as to why you just abolished the National Housing Supply Council. So where is the department getting its advice on supply issues now?
Mr Riley : The responsibility for housing supply continues to rest with the Treasury—a parliamentary secretary within the Treasury.
Senator LUDLAM: Okay, well they are flying blind now, I am afraid. So, who do you actually—
Mr Riley : There is a range of sources on housing supply that we use. We continue to use the material from the National Housing Supply Council. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report recently that covered some of the relevant issues, and there is a range of Australian Bureau of Statistics releases that are relevant there as well.
Senator LUDLAM: Was the department consulted before the PM, in this whole-of-government decision, axed the National Housing Supply Council?
Mr Pratt : Yes.
Mr Lye : No.
Senator LUDLAM: Hold on: so, one says yes and one says no; I love it when that happens! Was the department consulted?
Mr Pratt : I will retract my 'yes' and defer to Mr Lye's greater expertise on this.
Senator LUDLAM: Okay.
Senator McLUCAS: So Mr Lye—
Senator LUDLAM: Okay, and what was the view when you were consulted?
Mr Lye : We provided advice that the importance of housing supply information, as Mr Riley says, comes from a range of sources and that that was one of the inputs that we use in our work on housing policy. It does not rest solely on the presence of external bodies, and so our advice was on the importance of housing supply as an input rather than the mechanism by which it is derived.
Senator LUDLAM: How many FTEs do you actually have dedicated to housing in the department, and has there been a change since the last budget?
Senator McLUCAS: I did cover that earlier.
Senator LUDLAM: You did? Okay. I will go back to the transcript—apologies for coming a little bit late.
Does this government actually have a homelessness policy? I can put this to you, Senator Fifield, if the officers at the table do not want to venture an opinion.
Senator Fifield: Yes, the government does have policies in relation to homelessness.
Senator LUDLAM: Could you point me to where they are? For example—maybe we should be specific—is the minister committed to the white paper goal of halving homelessness by 2020 and providing services to all who need it? Let's start there.
Senator Fifield: It is probably best that I defer to those officers who work most closely with Minister Andrews.
Senator LUDLAM: It is a policy question, though, but if you want to—
Senator Fifield: Certainly, and those officers who work with Minister Andrews are aware of the policy that Minister Andrews has.
Senator LUDLAM: All right. Please, go ahead.
Ms Black : Maybe I can give you some context as well, which might assist you. The government is supportive of a variety of approaches to assist people who are homeless and people who are at risk of homelessness, and to stop people falling back into homelessness. But it has also been pretty clear that the responsibility for delivering those services is a responsibility of states and territories and the Commonwealth plays able contributory role in that regard. In relation to states and territories, the vast majority of states and territories have their own strategies and targets around homelessness and the Commonwealth's role is to contribute to those. A lot of those strategies leverage off the previous government's white paper, so many of the strategies in that are reflected in those jurisdictional strategies. In relation to the targets specifically, the government has noted that it will be more focused on practical measures than on targets.
Senator LUDLAM: I was enjoying your contribution right up to that point. So the government does not have a target to halve homelessness by 2020?
Ms Black : My understanding is that the government has said its preference is to focus on practical measures around homelessness.
Senator LUDLAM: Were you not focusing on practical measures before?
Ms Black : Yes, Senator. The primary change will be the relationship in terms of the agreements we have in place. The government has noted it is largely supportive of the objectives of the National Affordable Housing Agreement and the National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness, but it does have concerns around transparency and accountability in relation to those agreements and has indicated it will work pretty closely with states and territories mapping any reform path and any future arrangements in place.
Senator LUDLAM: We might have just subtly changed the subject, so if I could just bring you back: I am not aware whether the Prime Minister or the new minister has at any time committed to halving homelessness. How are you going to benchmark the processes and the tracking of the states and territories which, as you have acknowledged, play a very important role if there is no target? We could be having this same conversation in 20 years.
Mr Pratt : Senator, I do not want to be argumentative but—
Senator LUDLAM: That is probably my job.
Mr Pratt : I am about to be argumentative. The fact that at this stage the government has not announced a specific target does not mean that we are not able to work on practical measures, as Ms Black has discussed, to reduce homelessness or that we cannot measure success over time. The previous government had a very clear target of halving homelessness by 2020. The new government is yet to articulate what it proposes to do. We are working very closely with Minister Andrews on the issues of housing supply, affordable housing and ways to reduce homelessness but at some stage the government will decide what it wishes to do in those areas and then announce that. As yet, we are not in a position to tell you what that is.
Senator LUDLAM: I did not find that argumentative at all. That was helpful. Minister, this is to you because it is a policy question: is the Abbott government formally abandoning the existing target of halving homelessness by 2020? It is not just a case of letting it drift. Are you going to abandon that target and that ambition or are you going to uphold it?
Senator Fifield: The government, as the officer at the table has already indicated, does not see a target based approach as the answer. A lot of these responsibilities fall within the states' sphere, so there are limits to what the Commonwealth can expect to achieve on its own.
Senator LUDLAM: Point me to any section at all in the Constitution that indicates the primary responsibility for homelessness rests with the states.
Senator Fifield: I am just saying that—
Senator LUDLAM: That was kind of rhetorical. I know it is not in there.
Senator Fifield: My point is that lots of—
CHAIR: Seriously, have you read them?
Senator SESELJA: If it is not in the Commonwealth Constitution that would suggest it rests with the states.
Senator Fifield: My point is that—
CHAIR: You cannot get out of everything that is not in the Constitution, perhaps.
Senator LUDLAM: The Commonwealth has most of the taxing power, Senator Fifield. If you are not going to resource the efforts of the states, it is not going to get done. These officers have just explained they are working in a vacuum. Is the government formally abandoning that path or not?
Mr Abbott has said he thinks some people choose to be homeless, for example. Now that, to me, sounds so utterly counterproductive that I cannot believe it came out of his mouth, but is that part of this government's policy on homelessness?
Senator Fifield: Is what part of this government's policy on homelessness?
Senator LUDLAM: That people choose to be homeless, so there is no point in eradicating homelessness or cutting it in half.
Senator Fifield: I am not aware of the statement that you are referring to.
Senator LUDLAM: You folk need to keep better notes of what the guy says. Some of it is extraordinary.
Senator Fifield: I cannot add to what I have said already.
Senator LUDLAM: Okay. The National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness was given a one-year extension last year. Can you provide us with an update on what is going on with renegotiating that?
Ms Black : Senator, at this stage there is no funding in the forward estimates for a National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness. However, I go back to my previous comments around the minister's commitment to work with his jurisdictional counterparts and for us to engage at officials level around what any future homelessness funding arrangements may look like.
Senator LUDLAM: Are you expecting anything to move on this before the budget, or not?
Ms Black : That is a matter for government, Senator.
Senator LUDLAM: That is true, it is. What about the overarching NAHA? That appeared to have hit the wall under the previous government; it was not going very far or very fast. Is the new minister going to make an effort to revitalise the NAHA, which does expire next June?
Mr Lye : I will make a couple of comments. One is that the minister gave the speech, which I referred to before, and in that speech he gave some indications in relation to housing policy, and in relation to homelessness, where he sees some of the key issues. Coming back to some of the discussion before, he obviously points to the fact that the supply issue is substantially in the control of state and territory governments. He also made some comments about where he would like to see the NAHA go. So I think that is probably a guide to the future of the NAHA.
Senator LUDLAM: I have not read the speech, so I will track that down. When will the membership of the National Regulatory Council for Community Housing be announced?
Mr Riley : I will just turn to that page in my brief.
Senator LUDLAM: While you are checking, I just wanted to point out that that minister's speech apparently extensively quoted from the National Housing Supply Council. I will just share that moment of irony. I am not sure where he is going to source the data for his next speech.
Mr Riley : The national regulatory system is primarily a matter for the states and territories. The national regulatory council to support that system is also primarily a matter for the states and territories, and the government is considering its position on its future participation in that council.
Senator LUDLAM: There is a bit of a theme emerging that it is none of the Commonwealth's business to be worried about housing affordability. My last question is about the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which has been arguably successful. I do not know that the coalition aggressively opposed it when they were in opposition. What is the minister's policy on the National Rental Affordability Scheme, which has very broad industry support? Will that be continued, and will there be more incentives issued?
Ms Mandla : The minister, in a recent speech at the National Housing Conference, indicated that he understands the important role that NRAS can play in providing more affordable rental housing. However, he has also indicated that there is scope to improve the scheme, particularly in relation to ways of spurring delivery under the scheme, under a 'use it or lose it' approach of exploring where there are requests to change promised delivery dates, locations, dwelling types and also the way that charities receive their incentive—so potentially looking at allowing greater flexibility for charities. We recently had a window where charities could elect to receive their incentive as a refundable tax offset, where they had previously elected cash, where their business models change. The minister has also indicated that before he would progress any changes to the scheme he would consult with relevant stakeholders, including states and territories.
Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for not saying that these things are the responsibility of states and territories. I do not envy you folk at all over the next little while.
Senator Fifield: States and territories do exist!
Senator LUDLAM: I am from one of them.
Senator McLUCAS: Going to Minister Andrews's speech that he gave on 1 November, Mr Lye, following your advice, there is a section in that speech talking about the National Affordable Housing Agreement, but it does tend to focus on the role of states and territories. Minister, is it the intention of the government to progress a new national partnership agreement on homelessness? Then I will ask the department what actions have been taken because, as you rightly indicated, it does expire at the end of this financial year?
Mr Pratt : Are you talking about the National Affordable Housing Agreement—
Senator McLUCAS: No, the NPA on homelessness.
Mr Pratt : As Ms Black mentioned beforehand, we are advising the minister about options for how homelessness issues are addressed. The minister intends to spend some time talking to his counterparts around the states and territories in determining the way forward. Ultimately, that will be a matter for government.
Senator McLUCAS: While that is happening, departmental staff are not having bilateral or multilateral conversations with the states and territories. These things take months to get agreement. So that is on hold while government makes a decision—is that right?
Mr Pratt : I expect we are continuing our bilateral discussions with states—
Senator McLUCAS: On an NPA?
Mr Pratt : On homelessness generally; whether it is on a future homelessness agreement, I do not know. Our focus early on is to work with the minister about what he would like us to do. Certainly I can assure you that we are not short of things to do in this space or anywhere else at the moment.
Senator McLUCAS: I understand, but my specific question was: are we continuing these discussions on the NPA on homelessness in order to prepare for a new one? I think you are saying that you suspect people are having conversations.
Mr Pratt : We are continuing to deal with colleagues in the states and territories on homelessness issues generally. Whether or not we are specifically discussing a future homelessness agreement, I suspect not at the moment, pending agreeing with government in regard to what direction it wishes to take in this area.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. Following the questions around NRAS, Minister Andrews said he was interested in exploring the 'use it or lose it' approach and 'tweaking' the NRAS. What work is the department doing around those two elements of the NRAS?
Ms Mandla : We have received a range of views in the past from stakeholders about how we administer the scheme and we are currently looking at the best way to give effect to the minister's statements in that regard, including how we will engage with stakeholders and states and territories. So we are working through that.
Senator McLUCAS: It is probably a question I best ask in February, I suggest. Round 5 NRAS projects are currently being assessed—is that correct?
Ms Mandla : That is right.
Senator McLUCAS: When will they be announced?
Ms Mandla : We are currently right in the thick of assessment. We had a lot of applications and incentives provided for. At this stage, I cannot give an exact time because we assessed with states and territories, and it sometimes is dependent upon the ability to get through those applications. We are steadily getting through the assessment process now.
Senator McLUCAS: Was there a date that we had previously indicated to them we would be able to announce?
Ms Mandla : We had previously scheduled with states and territories that we were trying to get through that process by the end of this year.
Senator McLUCAS: How much money is allocated to round 5?
Ms Mandla : It is approximately $1 billion over the forward estimates.
Senator McLUCAS: I have a June copy of the monthly performance report. Are they going to continue to be produced?
Ms Mandla : We are currently looking at the style, content and frequency of those performance reports. As you are probably aware, they rely on data input by our participants in the scheme and the way we do our own system. We are trying to look at how we can improve the accuracy of that data while avoiding unnecessary impost on those participants. We hope to be in a position on that this year.
Senator McLUCAS: And what was the last report, what month?
Ms Mandla : I think the last one that we have out is the June report.
Senator McLUCAS: So we do not know if they will be produced in the future. Is it right to think that?
Ms Mandla : We are currently looking at the best way to proceed on that at the moment.
Senator McLUCAS: I turn to the National Housing Supply Council. Mr Lye, I acknowledge the point you made about supply still being held in Treasury, but once again it would have been a very important piece of information to be known by the federal department as well. I do not mean to be value-laden, but what was the value of the reports, particularly the supply report that came out, that was of use to the department? Given that it is not solely designed to be advice to the department alone, I just want to get an understanding of what the federal department found valuable in receiving the state of supply report?
Mr Riley : It is hard to be specific about something like that. Through its research and evidence gathering, the council contributed to our understanding of housing supply and affordability issues and the broader policy debate on housing.
Mr Lye : It is probably a bit like the discussion about the Prime Minister's council. The supply issue input is definitely important to us. The government has made a decision to change the way in which it gathers that evidence, so we will be relying on the other sources that Mr Riley spoke of and the Treasury in relation to that input now.
Senator McLUCAS: Mr Lye, you said that you were consulted around the question of whether this should continue. What department did that consultation? I was presuming it was a department.
Mr Lye : I do not want to give you the wrong answer so I would rather take that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: Maybe wrongly, I assumed that this would have been a departmental officer to departmental officer conversation. I am not asking who—
Mr Pratt : Without wanting to speculate, I imagine it was either Treasury, Prime Minister and Cabinet or both. We should clarify that on notice.
Senator McLUCAS: Thank you. Minister, I understand what the departmental officials say, but you would be aware that following the abolition of the Housing Supply Council there was a flurry of press releases that came out from, frankly, all of the major stakeholders in the housing industry. They were very concerned about there being no forum now, none, that gathers information from states and territories, the private sector and the federal government that can collate that material. What is the government proposing as the mechanism that will deliver such an important document as the state of supply report into the future?
Senator Fifield: There is one presumption in your question, which is that there is only or was only one ideal mechanism for the provision of that sort of information. I do not presume that that is the case. But I am happy to take on notice as to further thoughts that Minister Andrews has in this area.
CHAIR: Last question, Senator McLucas.
Senator McLUCAS: I am sorry, this is outrageous. Can I tell you that the Planning Institute of Australia has said that no one state jurisdiction has the resources to collate, interpret or disseminate this information. So without the NHSC, we are left without a coordinated approach to housing data. They say this will lend itself to poor infrastructure planning decisions. The Real Estate Institute says that the State of Supply report provided valuable information not only to government policy makers but also to industry.
In my conversations with many of these players, I put it to them why they cannot go and do this stuff now. They cannot, because they cannot demand that states and territories provide information that they have about stock. They cannot then use that information; any information that they put together will not be recognised as being robust. Do you realise that Senator Payne said of the report:
This report is a key piece of intelligence for governments and private sector developers in the effort to improve housing supply and affordability.
My question is: what plans does the government have to establish an entity that will pull together the data in a way that can be compared across jurisdictions to be of use, particularly to the private housing market?
Senator Fifield: As has been stated here, Treasury has prime carriage of housing supply issues.
CHAIR: Thank you, Senator McLucas—
Senator McLUCAS: Final question, then.
CHAIR: We have now finished outcome 2.
Senator McLUCAS: Does the government intend to continue funding AHURI?
Mr Pratt : There have been no decisions that I am aware of by the government to cease funding AHURI.
CHAIR: Thank you very much.
Senator McLUCAS: Can I just put on the record that the negotiation around time has not been a negotiation. We need to be a lot more collaborative as a group when we make decisions about allocation of time.
CHAIR: I just need to repeat what I said earlier, which was that I was under the impression that—or I had been given assurances that—we would catch up time. I have yet to see evidence of it and we are an hour and a half behind now. The odds are catching up are becoming much slimmer, so let us move to straight to outcome 1, families, shall we?
Senator MOORE: This is one of these areas where I am going to let you know what I want to ask and see whether it fits. I want to briefly ask about the process with the two working groups which are looking at women who have had their children stolen, so that process that came out of our Senate report. I also want to find out what is happening with the ongoing issues around the people who used to be called Forgotten Australians and the work that is being done in that area. So I have very brief questions and more on notice in that area. Is this where we ask very brief questions about Schoolkids Bonus?
Mr Pratt : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Good. And we want to ask about the royal commission and a little bit about income management in a general sense. They are the questions we have.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Income management is outcome 3.
Senator MOORE: Okay. It is always good to check. Senator Peris has some very standard questions.
CHAIR: We have got some questions from Senator Bernardi.
Senator MOORE: We have the areas that I will start with; then we will go to Senator Brown, who is going to do the royal commission questions; and Senator Peris, who is going to the Schoolkids Bonus. There we are. I am wanting to know what is happening in terms of the process around the working group that was set up as a result of the Senate inquiry about women who had their children stolen and the issues around adoption. Senator Boyce, Senator Siewert and I are on that group. We are wanting to know about what the process is around that and where we are in terms of funding. I know that the group was endorsed. It was in the publication about appointments upon made until June 2014. Is that right? I then want to know about the various processes that lead off that.
Ms Strapp : As you know, the working group was established in June 2013 by the former government. We had our first meeting in July. We have had a subsequent meeting of the working group in October, and we plan to have a further meeting in March, around the time of the apology. The main aim of the working group is to look at the establishment of support services specifically for people affected by forced adoptions. Within the scope of that, we are also looking at the other responses to the inquiry, including $5 million that has been allocated to the Department of Social Services to establish more community-based support services; $5 million that was also provided to the Department of Health for the ATAPS program and for the development of guidelines for mental health professionals; and $1.5 million that was provided to the National Archives for a national exhibition as well as a website promoting information about the history of forced adoptions. The working group, as I said, has met twice, and it has also had a number of teleconferences when issues arise. As well as that, part of its role this year we have contracted the Australian Institute of Family Studies to do a scoping study looking at the service system that is currently around forced adoptions and the models available to service those people who are affected.
Senator MOORE: And that allocation is within the money that was already provided?
Ms Strapp : Yes, that is within the, I think, $300,000 for this financial year. We have funded AIFS within that amount. That funding is also for the establishment of the working group as well as what we might anticipate. There might be some costs if we can do a selection process, which we are hoping to do soon after the scoping study is finalised in February. The working group would be reviewing that scoping study and would be providing recommendations to government about the service system that we would be funding with the money in the out years for services.
Senator MOORE: The recommendations go to Minister Andrews.
Ms Strapp : Yes, that is right.
Senator MOORE: Which are the out years for this program?
Ms Hefren-Webb : There is $500,000 in 2013-14, $1.5 million in 2014-15, $1.5 million in 2015-16 and $1.5 million in 2016-17.
Senator MOORE: That will pick up all the recommendations that will come out of the working group, and ongoing commitments about extra services will go to people who identify in that group?
Ms Strapp : We anticipate that the working group will look at the scoping study and provide recommendations about how we would select those services and what the service model would look like—so what are the needs of this group? That would feed into the selection process and also the recommendations about how many services might be funded.
Senator MOORE: There is another group, which I know is also in your branch, that deals with issues around the Forgotten Australians. The annual report last year looked at Link-Up and some of the work done there. Can you tell me what the funding stream out of the Forgotten Australians program is now?
Ms Strapp : Are you talking about how much funding is provided to Forgotten Australians?
Senator MOORE: Yes, and into the future years. In the interests of time, because I am really interested in this area, I will put on notice that I want to get this information. I would like to know the organisations that are being funded through that program and the reporting mechanisms that those funded organisations need to have with the department about it. The only thing I need to know now is: into which out years is the funding currently allocated?
Ms Strapp : The funding was $26.5 million over four years, and services have only been contracted until 30 June 2014, which is in line with all of our other services under the Family Support Program, but I believe there is a further year's funding after that that has been allocated. But the funding is ongoing funding.
Senator MOORE: Can you include in that question on notice what evaluation strategy there is around this as we move towards the end of the first budget allocation?
Ms Strapp : Sure.
Senator PERIS: My question are on the Schoolkids Bonus. How many families have been assisted in the years 2012 and 2013? Are you able to provide a state and territory breakdown of those figures?
Mr Whitecross : The Schoolkids Bonus assisted around 1.25 million families in the 2012-13 financial year. I do not think I have a state breakdown here, but I could provide a state breakdown for you.
Senator PERIS: Thank you. Could I also receive the breakdown of payments for primary school students and secondary school students in the states and territories?
Mr Whitecross : Sure.
Senator PERIS: Is there any modelling of the impact on families of withdrawing this support?
Mr Whitecross : There is no specific modelling involved in that. If the Schoolkids Bonus legislation is repealed, they will no longer receive those amounts.
Senator PERIS: I do not know if you are able to answer this, but will Abstudy and youth allowance be affected?
Mr Whitecross : The Schoolkids Bonus goes to recipients of FTB, but, if the child is receiving another income support payment in their own right and attending school as a full-time secondary student, they will also receive the Schoolkids Bonus. They will receive that either directly or to the parent, depending on the circumstances of their payment. They are included in the 1.25 million. Some of those are payments to individuals who receive youth allowance, Abstudy or the disability support pension.
Senator PERIS: Will they possibly lose payments?
Mr Whitecross : The Schoolkids Bonus program goes to all those people, so, if the program stops, then it will stop for both the individual students receiving it and the families where families are receiving it.
Ms Hefren-Webb : They will no longer receive the Schoolkids Bonus, but they will retain all other payments that they were receiving.
Senator PERIS: If you are a student at a college, which is financed through Abstudy, will Abstudy continue? Is that the same for youth allowance? That will all continue.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator PERIS: I have other questions but in the interests of time I will put them on notice.
Senator BERNARDI: I have some questions in outcome 1.3. Specifically, I have questions following up from something I first raised in 2008, which was that the then baby bonus was able to be paid for abortions after 20 weeks gestation, based on either the gestation period or the weight of the foetus. The government at the time said that it would not happen and it could not be done, and ultimately they said that they would change the form to differentiate still births from abortions—which was fine, I accepted that. But in August of this year, there were claims that emerged in my local newspaper, The Advertiser, that the South Australian health department was encouraging women to seek payments for abortions. It reported that: 'Women who have had a termination of pregnancy at or over 20 weeks gestation may be eligible to apply to Centrelink for the Bereavement Payment or Paid Parental Leave.' This concerns me, clearly. I would like to know the current status of whether people are receiving Paid Parental Leave or the Bereavement Payment for abortion.
Mr Brown : Senator, the Baby Bonus and Paid Parental Leave can be paid in cases of a stillbirth. A stillbirth is defined as one who weighs at least 400 grams at delivery or whose period of gestation was at least 20 weeks, and who has not breathed since delivery, and whose heart has not beaten since delivery. All stillbirths are required to be certified by a medical professional, and normally we would not have any issues with their certification.
Senator BERNARDI: This is the thing. There is a degree of understanding that a stillbirth is a traumatic event for any parent, or for anyone, and there is a justification that can be made for a bereavement payment to deal with certain things. However, it strikes me as quite offensive for someone to have an abortion and still receive a payment, even though they have undergone a voluntary termination of the child. It concerns me. I was told it could not happen and it would not happen—that it did not happen any more. And yet there are reports that it is happening.
Ms Hefren-We b b : Senator, are you referring to the South Australian health information?
Senator BERNARDI: I am referring to an Advertiser report from South Australia which quotes the South Australian health department.
Ms Hefren-We b b : That material was written without any consultation with the Commonwealth. When we were alerted to that information, a senior official from the department wrote and advised that the material was inaccurate, and I understand it has been withdrawn since. As Mr Brown said, we rely on the doctor's certification.
Senator BERNARDI: And they do quote a number of people in this who say that they were encouraged to do it by simply ticking a Centrelink form themselves, so the suggestion was that it did not need to be certified by a doctor. I know it is a sensitive issue. It is awful. I don't like talking about it but—
Mr Lye : We do rely on the medical practitioner to be honest and accurate.
Senator BERNARDI: So that is the—
Mr Lye : This is probably a question for DHS rather than us, as they monitor the practices of medical practitioners in relation to MBS items and they have oversight. They also monitor general claiming behaviour. So, Senator, you should be assured that whenever these instances come up, together, we are quite quick to act and to ensure that we have not got an issue of a medical practitioner doing the wrong thing. And so in the South Australian case, as Ms Hefren-Webb has said, we wrote to the South Australian government about the advice.
Senator BERNARDI: Okay. I have a few more questions, Chair.
CHAIR: One or two more, Senator Bernardi, maximum.
Senator BERNARDI: There are a few; three?
CHAIR: No, two.
Senator BERNARDI: Are you able to please take on notice then, to provide information about the number of Baby Bonus and/or Paid Parental Leave payments that were made for stillborn babies in each of the last five years since I raised this issue in 2008?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator BERNARDI: Will you take that on notice?
Mr Brown : We are not exactly sure how well it is collected, but we will do our best.
Senator BERNARDI: It has to be collected well because you have to get a form. Someone has to certify the fact that this has happened. Do you shred the forms?
Mr Brown : No, but I have not checked—some of it relies on us getting information from DHS. But we can do that in conjunction with DHS and get back to you.
Senator BERNARDI: Thank you.
Senator CAROL BROWN: My question is about the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. My understanding is that $45 million was committed by the former government to community organisations who will be providing support to people engaged with the royal commission and that $38 million was allocated to particular organisations. Has the remaining $7 million now been allocated?
Ms Strapp : We did an open selection process earlier in the year. From that open selection process, 28 organisations were funded. With the remainder, we did identify that there were—
Senator CAROL BROWN: How much were those 28 organisations funded for? How much money was that?
Ms Strapp : A total of $37.7 million over three years. So there is some money left over. One of the things we identified from that open selection process was that we did have a gap—we did not identify any Indigenous-specific organisations or any that supported people with a disability as well as supporting people affected by religious abuse. So the minister has recently signed off, following a reasonably comprehensive consultation process with key stakeholders to identify the service needs for those groups and to identify who we might approach, for us to undertake a restricted selection process. That process is underway and we expect it to wrap up by the end of this year. That will allocate a portion of that funding. We have also left some funding over—we have not allocated it—due to the fact that we are not quite sure what the demand will be. Given the royal commission has only just started its public hearings, we wanted to make sure that—particularly in the later years—we had some money left over so that we can allocate it where it is needed. We are closely monitoring demand across Australia.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When did that restricted tendering process open?
Ms Strapp : This week. At the start of the week we approached organisations.
Senator CAROL BROWN: You have invited organisations—five?
Ms Strapp : We have selected a number of organisations, so it is a restricted process.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand that, but how many organisations have you approached?
Ms Strapp : We have approached eight.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Whereabouts are they located? Which states?
Ms Strapp : I think that is commercial in confidence. I cannot reveal which state they are from.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Not even which state?
Ms Strapp : Most of them are, I think, more nationally based organisations.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Peak bodies?
Ms Strapp : No, not peak bodies. We need actual service providers.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How much has been allocated for this restricted tendering process?
Ms Strapp : We have not set a specific amount. We rely on the organisations to provide us, in their application process, with information about how much they think the service is going to cost. So I cannot tell you how much money we will allocate. But it will be within that left over money—the $7 million or so that is left over.
Senator CAROL BROWN: $7.3 million.
Ms Strapp : Yes. We have to assess what the capacity of that organisation is to service and what geographic area they are servicing. So until we finish that process I cannot tell you how much we are going to allocate to each organisation.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When are you looking for that process to be complete?
Ms Strapp : We would be hoping that it would be finalised by December, and we would hope that organisations would be ready to service people affected by December.
Senator CAROL BROWN: If that money is not expended, I am assuming there is a commitment that any unspent money from that process will be spent in this area.
Ms Strapp : I believe so, yes.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Okay.
Senator MOORE: In terms of the process, can we see the tender document that went for the restricted tender.
Ms Strapp : I will have to take that on notice, I think.
Senator MOORE: Can we also see the tender document that went to the wider tender, so that we can see what the differences are.
Ms Strapp : Yes.
Senator MOORE: I cannot let the chance pass to say that a tender closing it in December, even though it is a restricted one, is one with which I am uncomfortable, because consistently in this area we have organisations concerned about tender periods that are around public holidays and particularly December and January. It is not just this one—and this is quite a specialised one. When you said December, my ears started to burn, because it is something we have talked with this group numerous times about.
Senator CAROL BROWN: It opened this week. When did you say it was closing?
Ms Strapp : Bear with me, I think I have this information.
Mr Lye : It is obviously not ideal. When we went to the first tender process we were hoping, obviously, to get some suitable organisations in that competitive process that would have met this need, and we did not. Then we had some complications because we had the caretaker period, which is why we are in the time frame we are in. We are trying to balance the obvious issue you raised about timing and the urgency.
Senator MOORE: Sure, it is an urgent situation. We understand that.
Ms Strapp : No, I do not have that information. I will take that on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Could you provide me with that answer. That would be great.
Ms Strapp : Sure.
Senator MOORE: Over how many years is the funding in the first round tender?
Ms Strapp : It is until 30 June 2016.
Senator MOORE: Minister, this is a program where all the money has not been allocated yet. Can I just confirm that if there is anything that is not expended through this specialist tender, that some of that will go to this specialist tender, if it is not part of the outstanding $7 million. Can I also confirm that there could well be more, and that that money is secure for the process.
Senator Fifield: Do you mean for the process of supporting people at the commission?
Senator MOORE: Yes. I just wanted to get the record.
CHAIR: Thank you. We have caught up. We are only 45 minutes behind now. Could we move immediately to Disability Employment Services and Working Age and Student Payments, which is outcome 9, and start with 9.1.
CHAIR: I did have questions in this area, but I will not ask them.
Senator CAROL BROWN: You can go and get a private briefing.
CHAIR: They were around BSWAT.
Senator SIEWERT: Where are we up to with the BSWAT process?
Mr Innis : In the outcome structure we currently have that is in a different outcome, but I know the group manager is here.
Senator SIEWERT: Which outcome?
Mr Pratt : Outcome 5.
Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, we have done that, haven't we?
CHAIR: We should have asked about BSWAT in outcome 5? I specially waited.
Mr Innis : The group manager is still here. We might see whether he is available and whether they are questions we can answer with the people here.
Senator SIEWERT: I am update of where we are. We have had a series of ongoing discussions about this. I still lose track of the outcome, no matter how long I have done this. I apologise for that. We will come back to that.
Mr Innis : In very broad terms, we continue to work on the issue. We have been working very hard engaging with the sector. There has been an application to the Human Rights Commission for an exemption from the act for a period to allow time for well-worked-through solutions to be developed. We are continuing that process. There is probably not a lot of additional detailed we can give in a general sense, but if there are specific questions we could possibly take them on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: How long is the exemption you have applied for?
Mr Innis : Three years.
Senator SIEWERT: You think it will take that long to work through?
Mr Innis : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Because you have to come up with the instrument and all that sort of thing.
Mr Innis : It is a very complicated thing, obviously; we are talking about vulnerable people. We have a desire to ensure continuity of employment if possible. It will take a little bit of time to work through. Clearly, the commission has to make a decision on our application. Depending on the results of that decision—
CHAIR: Why is it going to take three years? What do you do in year 1, year 2, year 3?
Mr Innis : Mr Lewis may have more detail than I have.
Mr Lewis : Would you repeat the question?
CHAIR: Why is it going to take three years?
Mr Lewis : It may not take three years, but because we need some time to work through different logistics in terms of what might be the best way to approach this we have sought an extension in the first instance—the government has sought an extension—to allow some time to work it through. In the discussion with the commission before we put the submission in, in terms of exploring how you do these things—obviously I do not want to pre-empt their decision—they said that in considering timing and how long it might take they will come back and they will set. If they think it is unreasonable they will tell us so. If it is three years there will be milestones. We have offered that up. We have offered that we will show progress.
Mr Pratt : Perhaps I can try a very high level description of the sorts of things we would need to consider. I am thinking back to the process that occurred in the early 2000s, when the BSWAT was developed. There is a process of consultation, there are many stakeholders that need to be consulted on these issues, then there would be the development of a policy response. If as part of that a new instrument was to be developed there would be design work around that and further consultation and validation. There might be a period of testing and so forth. Then there is the process of implementation and more consultation and so forth. These processes can take quite some time. Three years is hopefully the worst case scenario, as Mr Lewis indicated; it could be done faster, depending on the circumstances and where we go. But it is pretty significant and it is a very, very complex area.
Senator SIEWERT: I do accept it is a very complex area. Have you been given an indication of how long the commission is going to take in giving its decision?
Mr Lewis : No. The commission, as part of its process, has invited up submissions in an open process. As I understand it they are going through their process of considering those submissions.
Senator SIEWERT: Does the three years start from when you put the application in; or, if they take six months to make a decision, is it three years and six months?
Mr Innis : We are continuing to work on the issues, so you would hope that—
Senator SIEWERT: You can see why I am asking.
Mr Innis : You would hope that if the commission's process took some time we would be further along the path.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, that is where I was getting to.
CHAIR: I understand some funding has been made available to ADEs to assist them in putting together submissions and the like. Is that so?
Mr Lewis : Money was made available to ADEs to get legal advice and to—
CHAIR: Can we have a copy of who got what—the list of what was available?
Mr Lewis : Yes, sure.
CHAIR: Was any funding made available to individual employees of ADEs to seek legal advice or to make submissions?
Mr Lewis : Not to my knowledge.
CHAIR: ADEs are not necessarily working in the interests of their employees. There is potential for conflict of interest there. It seems a bit odd. If you are going to support the employers, for want of a better word, why wouldn't you give some funding to employees as well?
Mr Lewis : In the first instance it was the employers that were party to the legal proceedings. They were the ones who were therefore potentially at risk of expenses. In the first instance the legal advice was provided to the ADEs.
Senator SIEWERT: Because people with disabilities have so much money that they can spend on legal proceedings!
CHAIR: Are you saying they were not a party to it?
Mr Lewis : They were the people who were making the claim.
Senator Fifield: Correct me if I am wrong, but, in relation to the money that was made available for ADEs for legal advice, part of the intent was so that they could check what their status was in relation to industrial law and the discrimination act. In what was a situation of limbo, it was to allow them to ascertain what their status and situation was.
Mr Lewis : It was.
CHAIR: Has that finished now? Are you continuing to provide support to ADEs in this process?
Mr Lewis : ADEs have been invited to be party to the proceedings in terms of—
Senator SIEWERT: This is the commission proceedings?
Mr Lewis : Yes. They were initially given money to determine their own status. Money is provided to ADEs in a block grant. It is not provided in the way that you might surmise. The funding is at a higher level to each of the ADEs as an enterprise. They each have different cost structures and they each have different ways of doing business. So there was money provided, and I can give you a breakdown of that. This is not my folder, but I can get my folder and give it to you later on.
CHAIR: On notice is fine.
Mr Lewis : The Commonwealth, as party to the High Court appeal proceeding—the ADEs were exposed, so it was seen that they should have some assistance to determine their own business practices and how they best proceed. The people making the claim were already acting with legal advice.
CHAIR: These are the people who are perceived to be acting on behalf of all ADE employees?
Mr Lewis : That is right, and more recently Maurice Blackburn has stepped into the space—this is a new development—on behalf of people who work in ADEs.
Senator SIEWERT: So you are saying that they are getting some support now as part of the commission consideration?
Mr Lewis : They are getting some support from Kairsty Wilson, a legal provider, and they are getting support from Maurice Blackburn.
Senator SIEWERT: But that is to participate in the commission case?
Mr Lewis : Yes, to have some sort of action against the broader ADE sector.
Mr Innis : Just to be clear, privately Morris Blackburn has offered to represent—
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I understood that but we have been crossing between the High Court case and the commission.
Mr Innis : Yes. Exactly how that support flows, whether it is going to be within the commission process or external to the commission process, is really a matter for the employees themselves. It is not something that we are seeking to play a role in because these people are pursuing their legal rights. The funding for the ADEs was because the action put a question mark over business models and we were very keen to ensure that ADEs did not in a pre-emptory way take decisions that would put employees at risk. So, part of the reason for funding the ADEs is to secure ongoing operations, if that makes sense.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, it does. Thank you for that clarification. I have a long question that I usually ask next door about data. Rather than sitting here and taking hours to get that I will put that on notice because it is quite detailed data. But I do want some higher-order data now, if that is okay, because it takes a while to get the other.
Mr Innis : Certainly.
Ms Buffinton : Is that specifically for funding purposes?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I would like to know what is the current percentage of volunteer participants in DES.
Ms Buffinton : In terms of what makes up the volunteers, that is a combination of those who are on the disability support pension and those who are non-allowees—therefore they do not have income support but they volunteer in—I do not have the combined number but if I give you the two separate items then we can—
Senator SIEWERT: That is fine. I can manage that answer.
Ms Buffinton : So, with the DSP case load, it is 17.3 per cent or 26,217 participants.
Senator SIEWERT: Sorry, which one is that?
Ms Buffinton : That is for DSP—disability support pension. And for non-allowees, we have 20,450 or 13.5 per cent. I can do a quick calculation and tell you that that is 46,667.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. How many people in the last financial year accessed DES?
Ms Buffinton : If I take it for the previous financial year and then come into the current financial year—we have them in financial year figures—
Senator SIEWERT: I am after 2012-13.
Ms Buffinton : In 2012-13 the flow coming in for commencements of DES was 95,799. Would it be helpful if I gave you the caseload for DES as a total as well?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, it would be.
Ms Buffinton : The caseload in total was 151,661. To be clear, that was the caseload at 30 September. I was describing what was happening in the last financial year and the caseload now to 30 September was that number.
Senator SIEWERT: I will ask on notice if it is possible to get a breakdown of those figures against each disability category. I do not want to go through each one of them now.
Ms Buffinton : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: It is just that I know we are running short of time. My other questions are really detailed, so I will put those on notice. I did want to ask about young people coming out of school and seeking support from employment services. At what age can they start accessing those services?
Ms Buffinton : There are two ways you can enter DES. Normally, we are very supportive of young people with disability completing school. So, in theory, you can enter DES effectively from just before the age of 15. However, we are great supporters of the idea that the best place in a supportive environment is school. Generally speaking, people come into Disability Employment Services post school. They could be taking both the employment support service and disability management service—
Senator SIEWERT: Do they have to have left school?
Ms Buffinton : No, but people with a high-end disability—those that get additional disability support while they are at school—qualify for what we call the Eligible School Leaver program, which means in their final 12 months of school they can also be serviced by a disability employment service. That means that there is a warm crossover in terms of, really importantly, the expectation that those people, and everybody with a disability, can work.
Senator SIEWERT: Can get ready for work, yes.
Ms Buffinton : So, really, from late November through to year 11, they can start accessing the employment support service in particular.
Senator SIEWERT: From late November?
Ms Buffinton : From the end of year 11.
Senator SIEWERT: As they go through year 12?
Ms Buffinton : Yes. So, typically, we do not think that they are immediately going to go straight into a job. While they are at school, it may be a day a week that they are getting the soft skills for employment; it may be they are getting a little bit of a work-hardening opportunity; and some will start work. But it is really so that, when they finish year 12, they have got all those skills, they have completed year 12 and they are ready, and there is a job available for them. We are doing a pilot at the moment in Hobart, in fact, where we are testing how the national disability agency is assessing young people, and we are doing a combined assessment with an employment services assessment. So we have the school plan in year 12, the national disability plan and the employment plan all lined up; that is the pilot we are running at the moment.
Senator SIEWERT: You said there were two. That is the first pathway. What is the second?
Ms Buffinton : The second one is for those with a higher-end disability who, within two years of finishing school, would not yet be ready for DES. It is a state based program at the moment. It will become part of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, but there is in most states a transition-to-work program. That is an intensive program. It is very similar to the Disability Employment Services, but it is for people who will need two years of developing those soft skills before they are ready for employment rather than, probably, the usual six to 12 months before you get in DES.
Senator SIEWERT: At what age can you access that?
Ms Buffinton : Usually it would be post school and so, typically, you would be 19 or 20 years of age, although we do have people a bit older than that.
The final way, of course, is for those that finish year 12 who either are going on to further education or can come in through the usual way, which is through an employment services assessment process. They either come in through the Department of Human Services or they can be directly registered. So, for what I was describing before, going through school or transitioning to work, you do not have to have an employment services assessment. For those who finish school, they would just come into DES in the usual manner, which is going through an employment services assessment being sent to a provider, or a provider directly registering them and then sending them off for an assessment.
Senator SIEWERT: I may follow it up again next time, because I have had some issues raised with me in Western Australia. I will double check that with information I have received and come back to you.
Senator MOORE: I will put most of my questions on notice. I would like to know about the moderate disability learning pilot and how those learnings are being translated into the process. I am also interested in the special assistance offered to people transferring from the parenting payment to Newstart. The last annual report was said that there were a range of special assistance processes put into the system around those people transitioning, which was described in the annual report as 'a successful transition'.
Ms Buffinton : Would you like me to answer that?
Senator MOORE: No, because I am putting it on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: I do have a lot of data questions which I will put on notice because they are very detailed. But I do want to know how many single parents have now been transferred onto Newstart, onto other payments and how many are out of the system completely?
Ms Dawson : I can help you with that. There were a number who were immediately affected on 1 January. I will start with that number and then build further on the people affected since 1 January. When grandfathering was removed on 1 January 2013, a total 73,716 parenting payment recipients were immediately affected. That comprised of 63, 080 single parents and 10,636 partnered. Subsequently, or between 1 January and 27 September, the number of further parenting payment recipients affected was 5,562 single and 1,183 partnered. That takes us to a total of 68,642 single and 11,819 parenting payment partners who have been affected up to 27 September.
I will go on to what has happened to those parenting payment single recipients, who you are particularly interested in. Of a total of 68, 642 parenting payment single recipients affected, I can tell you that 1,470 moved off income support altogether, and that was generally because their income was above the threshold for payment. A further 262 transferred to another income support payment at the outset, while 66,910 transferred to Newstart allowance, but only 52,591 of them remained on Newstart at 27 September. That is because 10,968 transferred to Newstart allowance but have since left and 3,351 transferred to Newstart but subsequently moved to another income support payment—to carer payment or to Austudy or to DSP or even perhaps back to parenting payment single, if they have another child.
Senator MOORE: The piece of paper that you are reading from, do you have all of that in a table?
Ms Dawson : I do.
Senator MOORE: It would be very useful if we could get that table.
Ms Dawson : We can provide that.
Senator SIEWERT: Of the 10,968 that have now subsequently exited Newstart, do we know what form of employment they have gone on to?
Ms Dawson : No, we do not know that detail. We can say that the majority of those, the vast majority, 98 per cent when we have looked at it closely, have gone to employment. Others may have left payment for other reasons. But we do not know precisely what employment they have may have gone to and whether that was part-time, full-time or the like.
Senator SIEWERT: Out of those figures do we also know how many have had to drop out of education?
Ms Dawson : No, I do not believe we would know that.
Senator SIEWERT: Do you not keep those figures?
Mr Innis : No.
Senator SIEWERT: How many have transferred to Austudy?
Ms Dawson : There have been 724 transfer to Austudy.
Senator SIEWERT: Are you still planning to reintroduce the education supplement for single parents on Newstart in March next year?
Senator Fifield: I will seek advice.
Mr Innis : There have been no changes to the plan.
Senator SIEWERT: So it is intended that they continue?
Mr Innis : There have been no changes.
Senator SIEWERT: How many of those on partnered payments got transferred onto Newstart?
Ms Dawson : I believe, if I am understanding your question correctly, that there are 52,591 people that remain on Newstart of the total—
Senator SIEWERT: That is the parenting payment single.
Ms Dawson : Yes, that is the parenting payment single.
Senator SIEWERT: What about those who were partnered?
Ms Dawson : I will have to take that on notice. I focused on the single figures.
Senator SIEWERT: Do we still have a cohort of grandfathered single parents? What are the figures there that you know will need to transition?
Ms Dawson : If the total number of people affected by grandfathering is 126,028 around 80,000 have been transitioned already, that would leave 46,000.
Senator SIEWERT: It was the 126,000 that I missed. Have we got the breakdown of that into parenting payment single and parenting payment partnered?
Ms Dawson : Yes I do have that on notice but not with me today.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could, that would be great. Earlier today I asked about those on disability support pensions that have found work. You know that extensive process we went through this morning and you took it on notice? I am wondering whether we could get those figures. Is that possible?
Mr Innis : I have not been provided with the figures. We will need to take it on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: That is it for me. The rest of my figures are too complicated for you to give them to me now.
Senator CAROL BROWN: My questions are for 9.3. Is it appropriate to go there now.
CHAIR: I think we are ready to go to 9.3, student payments.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I would like to ask a question about an election commitment that is contained in Our plan for regional Australia—a National Party plan. This question was asked to the Department of Education but they told us as it falls entirely within the Social Services portfolio. The particular election commitment that I am interested in is the tertiary access allowance.
Ms Dawson : Yes, I am familiar with the proposal. I do not believe it is on the formal list of costed election commitments. On that basis advancement of that proposal would really be a matter for the upcoming budget and other policy processes.
Senator CAROL BROWN: But you are familiar with it. Has there been a discussion within the department about the tertiary access allowance?
Mr Innis : This proposal has been mooted over quite a considerable time, including through parliamentary committees. From time to time it clearly would have been considered by departments of state.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Perhaps I can ask the minister, then. It is not yet on your budgeted commitments, as I have just heard. Can you confirm that?
Senator Fifield: I do not know except for the advice of Mr Innis.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Thank you. I am sure you do know about the allowance. It is a tertiary access allowance that is not means tested and is at a $10,000 level. Are you able to give me any insight into the progress that is being made to implement this commitment?
Senator Fifield: If I take what you say at face value, that it was a policy on a particular website, there are, essentially, only government policies. There may be other propositions that come up from time to time from different sources.
Senator CAROL BROWN: This is from the National Party.
Senator Fifield: Sure. There would also be propositions—
Senator CAROL BROWN: It is not worth the paper it is written on?
Senator Fifield: No, no, I am just saying that there are often policy propositions that come up. It may be through a Liberal Party state council where emotions are passed. But, look, I am happy to take your question on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: So you will provide me with some information as to the progress of this commitment—or not?
Senator Fifield: As I say, there are a range of propositions that come up. Sometimes they come through motions passed as party conferences. But there is only one set of government policies. I will take your question on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I appreciate that, but, it was confirmed at The National's federal council but it has also been supported probably by many members of the National Party. Mr Darren Chester is calling for it.
Senator Fifield: As I say, there are motions that are often passed in different organisational party forums and individual members of parliament also put forward propositions from time to time, but there are one set of government policies. I am happy to take your question on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I do thank minister for that undertaking. I have one more question to the department. Are you able to tell me how many regional/remote students there are currently in Australia?
Ms Dawson : Just a point of clarification—
CHAIR: Under whose classification?
Ms Dawson : That is where I was heading. We can certainly talk to you about the number of students on payment and that are assisted and the breakdown via geographic region. That is what we can provide you, but is that what you are wishing to know?
Senator CAROL BROWN: I will start with that.
Mr Kimber : At the end of September this year there were 43,646 students on Youth Allowance, in regional areas. There were 7,476 students on Austudy, from inner regional areas, making a total of 51,122 at the end of September. Of those in outer regional or remote areas, there were 18,194 students on Youth Allowance and 2,494 on Austudy, making a total of 20,688 in those outer regional and remote areas.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Is that all the information you are able to provide me?
Mr Kimber : This relates to students on Youth Allowance and Austudy. I do not have student numbers in universities and things like that.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I understand. I do appreciate the information you have given me. That goes some way in assisting me to have a look at this more closely.
CHAIR: That is the end of outcome 9.
Senator MOORE: I will tie that up with one general question and see what the answer is, from the department, if that is okay. The first general question, Mr Pratt is: have we had any luck in getting that letter that went, on grants, between this department and the department of the Treasury?
Mr Pratt : The Department of Finance?
Senator MOORE: I am always getting those confused; it is one reason I am not in economics, Mr Pratt!
Mr Pratt : We may have some developments, but—
Senator MOORE: I just thought before we went to the break I would ask that. Mr Pratt, and Minister, I neglected to ask a question this morning in the general section, when we got a little bit over excited. I am just wanting to know whether you would be prepared to have a go at answering it for me. It is about FOI.
Mr Pratt : I would be prepared to have a go at it.
Senator MOORE: You often do, Mr Pratt, that is why I am saying to have a go at it. Minister, we will come back to you as well. You would know that we have been asking questions across the board on FOI and it is to do with the decisions the minister—Ms Macklin, actually, put an FOI question to the department about getting the outgoing, I mean incoming, government brief under the FOI.
Senator Fifield: There are outgoing government briefs, are there?
Senator MOORE: Well, I think there could well be, Minister! My understanding is that that decision was refused by the department. I am wanting to know: what is process within the department, where was that delegation made and is that through you, Mr Pratt, does it come back to the FOI officer and what is the process?
Mr Pratt : No, it is not a decision I made. It is a decision that was taken by an independent decision maker within the department. I am wondering if I can hear—yes, I can.
Senator MOORE: I had no idea that officer was around. Thank you so much for coming back in; I appreciate it. We thought you were free, and you are not!
CHAIR: And we thought we had finished.
Senator MOORE: Ms Richards, do you remember the request that came in?
Ms Richards : Would you mind repeating the question?
Senator MOORE: It was to do with the request under FOI for access to the incoming government brief that was put in by Ms Macklin earlier. My understanding is that the application was refused, under the FOI process.
Ms Richards : I am aware that the minister put an application in. I was not aware that the decision had been made.
Senator MOORE: I could be wrong on that.
Ms Richards : It might just be a matter of timing; it could have happened very recently.
Senator MOORE: It was just to clarify the process. As you would know, we are asking a number of departments because it is my understanding—and certainly I think, Minister, you were asking for this brief during our estimates process three years ago and obtaining the incoming government brief for the department at that time. I am interested to know what has changed in the process between 2010 and now, for the same document.
Mr Pratt : Perhaps I can help there.
Senator MOORE: Thank you, Mr Pratt. I knew you would give that a go.
Mr Pratt : It has nothing to do with the government. It is essentially a bureaucratic decision about not releasing information which is used for deliberative purposes, because of a concern that if we are to release information of that sort we will risk the extent to which public servants feel that they are in a position to provide frank and fearless advice to ministers. In many areas, this has been the case for many, many years. Successive governments, in my experience, have generally shared the same view that the public servants need to be able to talk very frankly with and advise very frankly their ministers on things of that sort. If this material were to be made publicly available, it might then act to restrict the extent of the advice that was provided. So it is nothing to do with the government.
Senator MOORE: Was that the experience in 2010?
Mr Pratt : Certainly there can be differences in how documents are constructed. Sometimes it is possible to pull out things which are publicly available and make those available. In our case, we believe that the document falls—and I will let Ms Richards use the technical language here—into the area of deliberative advice.
Ms Richards : Also, there were two exemptions, I think, that were relied on by the decision maker. I clarify my earlier answer in that I am aware that there are no applications for incoming government briefs that are outstanding. So decisions have been made by the independent decision maker in relation to each of the requests that we received and that would include Minister Macklin's request.
Senator MOORE: There is an appeal process?
Ms Richards : It is the case that there is an appeal process available to applicants if they are dissatisfied with the decision of the independent decision maker. One application has been made to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner in relation to a request for access to an incoming government brief. I am not aware that it was made by the applicant that you have referred to.
Senator MOORE: The applications are made to the FOI process in each separate department. So there is no one general decision; the decision is made within each department on the independent advice.
Ms Richards : A decision is made by an independent delegate in each department in relation to each individual application for access on the terms of that application.
Senator MOORE: There is no involvement from the minister's office?
Ms Richards : There is not.
Senator MOORE: Minister, there is no engagement with the minister's office in this process?
Senator Fifield: I have had none.
Senator MOORE: In terms of the process that goes to the FOI—and you have confirmed that there was no ministerial engagement in the independent decision—is it possible for a minister to override that and decide to make the document available? The FOI process goes through that process, but is it possible for a minister to make a decision separate to the FOI process to allow the document to be released?
Mr Pratt : I believe the delegation rests with the department. I will be advised on this.
Ms Richards : Certainly not within the framework of the FOI Act.
Senator MOORE: That was for the FOI process. We would be able to go through that area. But is there anything to stop a minister separate to the FOI process from saying that a document can be released?
Mr Pratt : That would be up to the minister if he or she wished to release a document that we had provided to them.
Senator MOORE: Minister, we would like it released.
Senator Fifield: That would be a matter for the portfolio minister, Mr Andrews.
Senator MOORE: We would be able to have that put forward to the portfolio minister?
Senator Fifield: I will take anything, almost, on notice, Senator Moore.
Senator MOORE: We just think that it would be in the form of transparency.
Senator Fifield: I do not think there would be a disposition.
Senator MOORE: We live in hope under the transparency aspect. It is just to clarify the FOI process as opposed to a ministerial intervention. Thank you very much. Also, if we could follow up on the letter. Thank you for your time and for allowing the question, because I had missed that this morning.
CHAIR: We will resume at 7.15 pm with questions in the outcome relating to women and domestic violence.
Proceedings suspended from 18 : 30 to 19 : 15
Mr Pratt : With your indulgence, Chair, we have an update on part of Senator Moore's request.
Mr Lye : I have two different letter templates that are used by the department in relation to grant funding. They relate to our conversation about a letter of offer, a letter announcing grants.
Senator MOORE: Thank you. I want to get on the record some questions about your area. What are you called now?
Ms Bedford : Family Safety.
Senator MOORE: I am always happy to have family safety on the record, and not at 10 to 11 at night. Can you explain to me what is in the new DSS under the area of Family Safety that we used to know in FaHCSIA as the Office of Women—what is remaining with the DSS—and what your staffing levels are. First of all, what are your activities and programs and then what are your current staffing levels.
Ms Bedford : The work of the branch has stayed the same. We have the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and we also have the Support for Victims of Trafficking Program. With staffing levels, we still have a similar set-up, with similar sections to those that were around before. At the moment we have 19 people in the branch. Some staff have gone to Program Office as part of the program reform in the departments The numbers are lower because some people have moved to the Program Office—
Senator MOORE: Is that the one that does the grants?
Mr Lye : Yes.
Senator MOORE: In my mind I had the grants area as opposed to the programs area—but it is the same thing?
Mr Lye : That is right.
Senator MOORE: You have a lot of grants Family Safety too, do you not?
Ms Bedford : We have Community Action Grants and the Respectful Relationships grants.
Senator MOORE: So that people who are working on that have now gone across with their expertise to the central area?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Is 19 your staffing level, ongoing and temporaries?
Ms Bedford : There are 19 people working in the branch, and I think they are the figures we have given you before. Some went to Program Office—
Senator MOORE: Do they still belong to you or do they do belong to Program Office?
Ms Bedford : They belong to Program Office now.
Senator MOORE: So you do not have 19 now?
Ms Bedford : We have 19, and a certain number went to Program Office. That is why it is 19.
Senator MOORE: You retained your full complement of 19 FTEs—and how many went to Program Office from your area?
Ms Bedford : The FTEs are 21.4 but the headcount is 19 because a number of people have left and we have a couple of vacancies.
Senator MOORE: Do you have any non-ongoing employees?
Ms Bedford : I think we have two non-ongoing employees.
Senator MOORE: What work are they doing?
Ms Bedford : Policy work.
Senator MOORE: So it is not a special task; it is as part of the team?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: You have a couple of vacancies.
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Have you had anyone retire or leave the unit since June 2013?
Ms Bedford : Two people have left.
Senator MOORE: Any redundancies?
Ms Bedford : There are two that I know of.
Senator MOORE: In your unit, there were two redundancies?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: Surplus to requirements?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: You have the national plan and the status of the national plan is that it goes until which year?
Ms Bedford : We are just finishing the first action plan. The first action plan finishes at the end of this year and we are hoping that the second action plan is agreed to in the first quarter of next year.
Senator MOORE: Who is developing the second action plan?
Ms Bedford : In the branch we are leading the work and working closely with our colleagues in the Office for Women and also with state and territory officials.
Senator MOORE: In the normal COAG arrangement, in terms of process. How long has the development of the new plan been going on?
Ms Bedford : We have been thinking about the new plan for probably the last six months or so. We are just up to have discussions across the Commonwealth and across the states and territories around what might be in that.
Senator MOORE: When does the old plan run out?
Ms Bedford : The end of this calendar year.
Senator MOORE: Like 13 December?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: That is next month.
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: So the plan will be defunct.
Ms Bedford : The first action plan will be. There will be some actions that are ongoing, but it will not affect funding—
Senator MOORE: I am concerned about perception—that we have a plan that is dated 2013 and we do not have a plan that is dated 2014 into the future. Have you in your work plan got a time schedule for when you hope to have the new plan completed?
Mr Lye : We are in discussions with the government about that. The intention is that the second plan will be negotiated quite swiftly.
Senator MOORE: Okay, with the intention of having it next year?
Mr Lye : Correct.
Senator MOORE: Good. The first plan was for how many years? I do have a copy.
Ms Bedford : Three years. They are four three-year plans.
Senator MOORE: We are into the second one. Was there an evaluation process for the first plan?
Ms Bedford : There was a progress report that is on our website. We have been doing work around an evaluation plan for the whole breadth of the national plan. On the way through, we were doing a lessons-learnt, which includes that progress.
Senator MOORE: The milestones process, in terms of what has been achieved. That is in fact the evaluation process. Is that being done internally?
Ms Bedford : We are planning for the evaluation plan to be done externally and for the evaluation to be done externally. That is the plan at the moment.
Senator MOORE: In a tendered process?
Ms Bedford : Yes, or a select tender process.
Senator MOORE: An outside process. That is within the budget?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
Senator MOORE: That is the DV plan. In terms of the trafficking program, you know that we have just had another round of lobbying from the ACRA group? Did they come to see you?
Ms Bedford : Yes. They came to see the people at the branch.
Senator MOORE: Minister, it would not be your ministry; it would be Senator Cash's ministry, so we will have to follow up and see whether they got to see her.
Ms Bedford : They also met with our minister, Minister Andrews.
Senator MOORE: In terms of ministerial representation for family safety, who is the minister for that?
Mr Lye : Our minister, Minister Andrews. Obviously we are working very closely with Minister Cash.
Senator MOORE: In fact, in some ways it is Minister Cash supporting the Prime Minister in the Office for Women and Minister Cash supporting Minister Andrews in the family safety area. Would that be a fair—
Mr Lye : Yes. I suppose the way we would describe it is we might be doing work like a line agency does in relation to family violence and PPL and other departments in relation to child care, but obviously the Office for Women and Minister Cash have a policy leadership role in this space.
Senator MOORE: There has been a great deal of recent media around the trafficking process. What role has your Family Safety organisation had in working with the various groups that are in the Australian community now looking at the issues of trafficking? You would know that we had the Human Rights Subcommittee do an extensive inquiry on this issue. I think we brought down our report earlier this year. There were a lot of recommendations out of that report. Are those recommendations with you?
Ms Bedford : Yes. Attorney-General's has the lead on the program and you are aware of the AFP and other players in this area. Certainly Attorney-General's brings together the major people involved and has a roundtable with those people. We go to that as well.
Senator MOORE: Who represents family safety at the roundtable?
Ms Bedford : Either me or someone from the branch.
Senator MOORE: You have a component of your budget for that and there is also the Attorney-General's budget for doing the—
Ms Bedford : For the roundtable?
Senator MOORE: No, for the whole of the process with trafficking. You have your own budget for the trafficking plan?
Ms Bedford : We have a budget for the support program, which is the bit that we manage. So that is $4.22 million over four years, from 2011-12 to 2014-15. That is with the Australian Red Cross.
Senator MOORE: The grants from your area are with the program unit. Are any of the grants that are in the purview of Family Safety in the paused process whilst they are being assessed against the government's directions?
Mr Lye : We are still collecting that response for you. So it will cover the—
Senator MOORE: But there are some, aren't there, from Family Safety?
Mr Lye : Yes. Once we have the—
Senator MOORE: On the communications process between you and the Office for Women, I would imagine your work plans would interact considerably. You always have worked together so I would imagine it would continue, particularly around the various groups and around policy development. I would also think they would interact around the international relationship that Office for Women has taken. I would think both the DV plan and the trafficking would lead in to our international role. What is the process for the communication between the two units?
Ms Bedford : We have set up regular meetings between both branches, the Office for Women and the Family Safety branch, which includes the Mairi Steele and her sections managers or senior advisers and the section managers in my branch. We have been trying to set those up fortnightly. Sometimes they move a little bit. And we talk every day. There are so many issues across the area. But we also frequently talk to other departments as well.
Senator MOORE: Where are you located?
Ms Bedford : Tuggeranong.
Senator MOORE: And where is—
Ms Bedford : Barton.
Senator MOORE: It is not too far. But you would still have a very close working relationship. I know certainly in the first MoG and apparently I am already in the media for saying I like the word 'MoGing'. But when the first MoG changes came through, in my mind, when I heard that the Office for Women had gone to PM&C, my natural thought was that the whole unit had unit had gone to PM&C. It was only in preparation for this estimates that I found out that Family Safety was staying with DSS. So I think there are quite a few people in the wider community who think the whole thing has gone to PM&C. So the communication strategy is going to be important, because you have regular followers—people who follow the website and follow the stuff that comes out. So there needs to be some clarification, I think, around that.
I will not mention the website again, Mr Pratt, but one of the pages on the website that still mentions FaHCSIA all the time is under women. So it is just one of those areas to get that.
Ms Bedford : We certainly are working through the website. There are 200 pages—
Senator MOORE: The coloured thing across the top is fabulous. It is still very engaging and mentions women. But when you go down into the text it still talks about FaHCSIA. I will probably have questions on notice and we may well ask for a briefing as well—in terms of being for the Senate, back through you, Minister—just to get really clear about how it is going to work and, in particular, around those issues about the development of a new plan. You remember the launch of the original plan was a really important moment and people were in deep celebration mode.
Ms Farrelly : As to that sort of briefing, it would be important that we do that with our colleagues at PM&C. So a joint briefing would be our preferred approach.
Senator MOORE: That is the plan, so that all of us who are interested—and there are many who are—would be able to see you working together and to see how it is going to interact. I know Senator Peris has particular issues about Indigenous programs through the area as well, but we are going to put those on notice. Thank you for your time.
CHAIR: As to family safety, do families include single women—are they a family?
Mr Lye : Are you asking about single women without children?
CHAIR: Yes, single women without children, or single men without children, as Senator Smith has just reminded me—although this was a program about domestic violence towards women, Senator Smith.
Ms Farrelly : I would say that there will be situations where there are women in that circumstance who do not have children.
CHAIR: But would you see your section as covering single women without children?
Ms Bedford : Yes.
CHAIR: As to the evaluation that you are doing on the first action plan, when are you anticipating that that will be finalised?
Ms Bedford : We do not have that date yet.
CHAIR: But it is going to be very hard to start the next one without evaluating the first one, isn't it?
Ms Bedford : I was talking about the development of an evaluation plan to then go out to evaluate the whole national plan. So the evaluation plan would be done in consultation with—
CHAIR: I think the initial process that had been suggested by the previous government was a three-year plan with an evaluation to then do another three-year plan et cetera. You are saying your evaluation is of this action plan, to decide how to proceed in terms of dealing with the issue of domestic violence—is that right?
Ms Bedford : I would put it that we are wanting to look at the lessons learnt from the first action plan, but the overall evaluation will be for the whole national plan—
Mr Lye : Which runs from—
Ms Bedford : 2010 through.
CHAIR: There being no further questions, thank you very much. We will move now to outcome 3, Community capability and the vulnerable.
CHAIR: We are only five minutes behind time, so well done, everyone. Who has questions here? I know there are a couple of questions from government senators, but perhaps Senator Peris we will start with you. Do people know if they have questions in 3.1, financial management? Okay. Go for it.
Senator PERIS: My questions relate to recent reports in the media about a fast-tracked review into welfare quarantining. What is the government hoping to achieve from the review?
Ms Hefren-Webb : There are a number of evaluations underway into income management in different locations. The minister has talked about potentially fast tracking those evaluations to inform policy decisions. Presumably, the purpose of doing that would be to provide evidence that would input into government policy decisions.
Senator PERIS: What are the terms of the review?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The evaluation?
Senator PERIS: Yes.
Ms Hefren-Webb : There are several evaluations underway. Each of them has a series of evaluation questions which we can provide for you on notice, if that is helpful?
Senator PERIS: Yes, if you could please.
Senator SIEWERT: These are the current reviews that are being undertaken?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator PERIS: That is the one I think you are talking about the other day?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Senator PERIS: Who is undertaking the review?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The evaluation of place based income management is being undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics. The evaluation of income management in the Northern Territory is being undertaken by a consortium comprising the Social Policy Research Centre, the Australian National University and AIFS. And there has been an internal review of Western Australian income management that we did within the evaluation part of the department.
Senator PERIS: Who is participating in the review?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Each evaluation involves a series of interviews with stakeholders, collection of data, a survey of participants on income management and use of control groups.
Senator PERIS: What consultations are taking place?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The evaluation researchers are talking to a number of stakeholders—peak bodies, people who work in Indigenous communities, people who work with clients on income management, financial management providers and child protection authorities, and they would be talking to people who operate community stores—a range of bodies like that.
Senator PERIS: Will there be a call for public submissions?
Ms Hefren-Webb : It is an evaluation, it is not a public submissions process.
Senator PERIS: Finally, when will the review be completed?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The minister is just about to look at the possibility of fast tracking. At this stage, we are just looking at that. Currently, we do not have a specific date. With the evaluation for the Northern Territory income management, we are anticipating a final report in June 2014. For place based income management—
Ms Purdy : The baseline report is due in January 2014, and the intermediate evaluation reports are due in May and December 2014.
Senator SIEWERT: Which ones, sorry?
Ms Purdy : The place based income management evaluation.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes—when did you say the intermediate were due?
Ms Purdy : Intermediate evaluation reports are due in May and December 2014, with the final report due in May 2015.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the one due in January?
Ms Hefren-Webb : That was the baseline.
Senator CAROL BROWN: The report talked about fast tracking, and you are looking at fast tracking. Can you tell me what that actually means?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The evaluation strategy had a series of stages, including client interviews early in the piece when people were on income management then midpoint interviews and later interviews. We are just looking at the timing and whether there is scope to change that timing to help bring forward an earlier report.
Senator CAROL BROWN: So, the evaluation was due to be completed in June 2014 anyway?
Ms Hefren-Webb : There are two evaluations. The NT evaluation was due to be completed then. The placed based one, Ms Purdy just read out the original dates.
Senator CAROL BROWN: January, was it?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The baseline report in January.
Senator CAROL BROWN: They are the original dates?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am still confused. They are the original dates; that was the time line. What parts are fast-tracked?
Ms Hefren-Webb : The minister has asked us to look at whether those dates can be brought forward.
Senator CAROL BROWN: January probably cannot be.
Ms Hefren-Webb : No, probably not; the later dates obviously.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How are we going with looking to see if they can be brought forward?
Ms Hefren-Webb : We are in the process of developing advice for the minister. We have had some discussions with the evaluators and some trade-offs will need to be made about the methodology that they have devised. We are in discussions with them.
Senator SIEWERT: Presumably the minister has been provided with the evaluations that have been done to date.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: When you say that you are not going to make a public comment on it, what sorts of questions are you asking the store owners? Are you just asking how much food they have sold and those sorts of things? Some of the work previously seemed to be quite subjective when you talk to store owners.
Ms Hefren-Webb : I can get you information about the specific questions.
Senator SIEWERT: That would be appreciated. If you could do that for the store owners and any other organisations that are also being consulted that would be appreciated.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Does that include evaluation of the Cape York trials?
Ms Hefren-Webb : No.
Senator SIEWERT: They are not to be re-evaluated or the process fast-tracked?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Responsibility for the Cape York welfare trial has transitioned to PM&C. The evaluations of Cape York welfare reform were not just about income management; it was evaluation of the whole package.
Senator SIEWERT: I know that and that is why it is not really comparable with the NT because they have such a different process.
Ms Hefren-Webb : I am not sure what the next stage is after the last evaluation report. Tomorrow PM&C might be able to provide that.
Senator PERIS: Do you know how many people in the Northern Territory are on income management?
Senator SIEWERT: They are so sick of us asking for it, they have prepared it in advance for us!
Mr Pratt : I reject that assertion!
Ms Hefren-Webb : 18,892 as at 18 October 2013.
Senator SIEWERT: On the place based income management, is it possible to break down the five places into how many of those are voluntary, how many are protection and how many under the vulnerable criteria? Greater Shepparton, for example, has 316. How many of those are voluntary and how many are child protection measures? Not many will be because there are fewer than 20, so I accept that. The others surely are not fewer than 20, or if you can then you can tell where there are fewer than 20.
Ms Hefren-Webb : In all of those sites, the child protection referrals are fewer than 20.
Senator SIEWERT: I take that for granted.
Ms Hefren-Webb : We can give you the figures on voluntary on each of those sites.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could that would be good.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Bankstown, 51; Greater Shepparton, 193; Logan, 101; Playford, 87; and Rockhampton, 62.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay, thanks. There will be very few child protection measures in each of those areas so basically all the rest is vulnerable income management, and when we are talking about the youth triggers we are talking about the new trigger that came in.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Correct.
Senator SIEWERT: Is it possible to break down the youth triggers against each of those place-based areas? Then I can work out the rest myself, obviously.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes—Bankstown 88, Shepparton 113, Logan 577, Playford 340—
Senator SIEWERT: Three hundred and forty for Playford?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes, and 244 in Rockhampton.
Senator SIEWERT: And the rest. There are actually not that many on vulnerable income management in each of those locations, are there, compared to those other measures?
Ms Hefren-Webb : No.
Senator SIEWERT: Is that statistically valid for any work that is going to be done on the evaluation?
Ms Hefren-Webb : I think the relatively small numbers certainly will have a bearing on the strength of the conclusions that could be drawn from an evaluation. Having said that, there is a fair bit of qualitative interviewing involved in the evaluation. They will be pulling together the findings for us as best they can with the size of the cohort that they are working with.
Senator SIEWERT: In the evaluation that is being undertaken, are they then doing it on localities where we have not got income management?
Ms Purdy : Yes, for the place-based income management evaluation they are doing five comparative sites as well as the five place-based sites.
Senator SIEWERT: Where are those sites?
Ms Hefren-Webb : You know how there were 10 original sites and only five had income management—the other five?
Ms Purdy : I can read them out to you if you like. There is Hume in Victoria—
Senator SIEWERT: Hume—this is where we doing the 'young parents'—
Ms Purdy : Burnie in Tasmania, Wyong and Shellharbour in New South Wales, and there is also one other site, Canterbury in New South Wales.
Senator SIEWERT: And they have similar stats, one presumes, in terms of areas of disadvantage, people on income support?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes, that is correct.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of measures under the vulnerable income management measure, are there any new measures in there besides housing stress, financial stress—the group of measures you have already talked about? Are there any additional ones there, besides the youth trigger, obviously?
Ms Hefren-Webb : No, Senator.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the Western Australian trial, is it possible to break up the Perth numbers and Kimberley numbers? Can you break those up into Indigenous and non-Indigenous as well—particularly the Perth figures.
Ms Hefren-Webb : We do not have that with us, but we could do that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. The APY Lands are all voluntary, aren't they?
Ms Purdy : There are 253 people on the voluntary measure of income management.
Senator SIEWERT: And the others are—
Ms Purdy : We cannot tell you actually.
Senator SIEWERT: using the child protection measures?
Ms Purdy : Fewer than 20—
Senator SIEWERT: I beg your pardon. In the Laverton shire, the Western Australian ones—are they voluntary? How many of those are voluntary?
Ms Purdy : The vast majority, again—176 are on voluntary.
Senator SIEWERT: That is not quite 20. What are granted exceptions? I beg your pardon; it is okay.
Does this come under financial management or have we just jumped? Where do I ask about updated financial figures for the costs of the Northern Territory income management and Place Based Income Management processes? Do I ask that here?
Ms Hefren-Webb : As you know, the costs are distributed between ourselves and DHS. We will provide the costing for DSS in the Northern Territory. For the Northern Territory in 2013-14, there is $2.649 million appropriated, of which $606,000 relates to evaluation, $80,000 relates to communications and—
Senator SIEWERT: I will come back to evaluations. How much for communications?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Eighty thousand, and $1,963,000 relates to voluntary income management incentive payments. Not included in that $2.649 million, there is also $350,000 allocated for matched savings payments.
Senator SIEWERT: How many people have taken up matched savings? I do not think you gave it to me this time, did you?
Ms Purdy : It is now 31 people.
Senator SIEWERT: So we have not expended much of the—
Ms Hefren-Webb : No. The voluntary income management incentive payments tend to be oversubscribed and so—
Senator SIEWERT: That is what the—
Ms Hefren-Webb : The $1.963 million.
Senator SIEWERT: That is the—
Ms Hefren-Webb : That is the voluntary payments.
CHAIR: They are oversubscribed.
Ms Hefren-Webb : They tend to be, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: You have to be on there three months now, don't you? You have to be on there three months anyway.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes, but it takes six months before you qualify for a payment. But the level of voluntary income management is at a level, and is sustained at a level, where we generally expend that full appropriation.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of place based—
Ms Hefren-Webb : This year there is $1,112,000 appropriated: $402,000 for evaluation, $79,000 for communications—
Senator SIEWERT: So the $402,000 is on top of the $606,000?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. It was about $1 million, wasn't it, for the—
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes, but it is two separate evaluation contracts.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes.
Ms Hefren-Webb : There is $79,000 for communications; $620,000 for voluntary income management incentive payments; and $11,000 for matched savings payments.
Senator SIEWERT: How many matched savings—
Ms Purdy : There are zero so far in the place based sites.
Senator SIEWERT: Why am I not surprised? I am not reflecting on their capacity to be able to save—I am reflecting that they do not have enough money to be able to.
In terms of the evaluation, do you think you will need to spend more in order to fast track this process?
Ms Hefren-Webb : There are discussions between us and the evaluator, Deloitte Access Economics, about the phasing of the funding. The evaluation was scheduled to run into the 2014-15 financial year and there was another $592,000 appropriated for the evaluation in that year so it—
Senator SIEWERT: A million dollars to evaluate it?
Ms Hefren-Webb : It is a very robust evaluation.
Senator SIEWERT: It would want to be.
Ms Hefren-Webb : So I guess the question is not so much about whether more funding is required as about the timing of the funding and whether we need to look at it.
Senator SIEWERT: So you would pull it forward from—
Ms Hefren-Webb : We would bring in something forward. And, as I said, we are also looking at the methodological issues around that.
Senator SIEWERT: And what are the costs for Western Australia? Sorry—I should not forget my own home state!
Ms Hefren-Webb : The appropriation for 2013-14 for Western Australian income management is $586,000.
Senator PERIS: Just going back to the Northern Territory: the Northern Territory government has reached an agreement with the Commonwealth to impose income management on people referred into mandatory treatment for alcohol abuse. How many people have had their income managed?
Ms Purdy : The tribunal was only specified as an income management referral body by legislative instrument on 19 November, so at this point none have been referred to the new tribunal.
Senator PERIS: And the Northern Territory government has stated that it intends to introduce income management for domestic violence perpetrators. Has the NT government raised this issue with you? And, if so, is there evidence that income management will reduce domestic violence?
Ms Hefren-Webb : I am not aware of that issue being raised at officials level. It is possible that it has been raised at a ministerial level. I am not aware of it.
Mr Lye : It may have been raised by our colleagues in Indigenous policy; there is a chance.
Senator PERIS: Is the Commonwealth government looking at any welfare initiatives that will only apply to the Northern Territory or to Indigenous people?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Not to my knowledge.
Mr Pratt : Sorry, Senator—how do you define welfare measures?
Senator PERIS: This last question probably answers that one. Is the Commonwealth government currently looking into welfare initiatives in relation to encouraging school attendance, therefore linking Centrelink payments to children attending school?
Mr Lye : Just to clarify, my 'no' was about income management, as far as we know.
Senator PERIS: There is nothing around linking welfare payments to getting kids to school or anything?
Ms Hefren-Webb : There is an existing program called the school enrolment and attendance measure, which operates in a range of locations in the NT, whereby parents can have their payments suspended. That program has gone to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. That is an existing measure. In the normal course of government they may look at that measure. They may look at the effectiveness of it, or other options.
Mr Pratt : That would be a question to ask the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet tomorrow.
Senator SIEWERT: I have a few other questions. I do not know if you can answer this, because it may be less than 20, but how many in all of those place based locations are young parents under the young parents' measure?
Ms Hefren-Webb : I have it in the folder that is in the waiting room, but I know it is about 1,300 across all 10 sites.
Senator SIEWERT: So you will be able to give me that. Also, how many young parents have been suspended because of noncompletion of the scheme?
Ms Hefren-Webb : I would have to give you that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT: I would appreciate if you could take that on notice, but can you confirm whether some parents have been confirmed?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Is it possible to come back?
Ms Hefren-Webb : I have got the final participants in my folder but I do not think I have got suspensions.
Senator SIEWERT: If you could confirm that before you leave.
Mr Lye : HYP eligible clients by location—that is, helping young parents—is a total of 1,640. Would you like of breakdown of that?
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, please.
Mr Lye : So Bankstown, 82; Shellharbour, 76; Wyong, 192; Logan, 476; Rockhampton, 216; Playford, 307; Burnie, 41; Hume, 87; Shepparton; 90; and Kwinana, 73.
Senator SIEWERT: Is Kwinana one of the locations being used for the evaluation?
Mr Lye : No, Senator.
Ms Hefren-Webb : Because income management is already in operation across Perth, we could not use it as a control site.
Senator SIEWERT: Fair enough.
Ms Hefren-Webb : That is why Canterbury—
Senator SIEWERT: Point taken. All the rest I will put on notice, because I do want to get to not-for-profit.
CHAIR: Do we have anything in 3.2 or 3.3, income support for vulnerable people? Support for people in special circumstances?
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am just going to ask; you will pull me up.
CHAIR: I will seek advice and then I will pull you up, Senator Brown.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I have some questions in community investment and I am just wanting to know whether the agreements are in place for all service providers?
Ms Farrelly : Are you referring to any particular part of the program? Community investment has a number of elements. I could talk—just forgive me while I find my brief—about volunteer grants, if you wanted me to, in terms of agreements in place.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What other ones have you got there?
Ms Farrelly : So community investment program has a number of parts, so it is made up of—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Volunteer grants.
Ms Farrelly : Correct, and it is also made up of Indigenous community links that have gone to PM&C. Community capacity building projects—there are national secretariat's advice to government, and that is the total. So there are agreements in place for all of those except for volunteer grants, which was a funding round in July, and the majority of those grants are in place. Ninety-eight per cent of those grants are in place, and that is a large number—4,621 community organisations received a volunteer grant.
Senator CAROL BROWN: So what about the other two per cent?
Ms Farrelly : And there are 68 organisations that are still to receive their grant and six that have declined funding. Their circumstances have changed and they no longer wish to receive it, and those 68 will be paid imminently.
Senator CAROL BROWN: So they are proceeding.
Ms Farrelly : It is all in progress.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Business as usual.
Ms Farrelly : As you would understand, with community organisations, because they are voluntary, sometimes they have difficulty in returning the paperwork. They do not necessarily get them back in a timely way. Sometimes they need to meet as a committee and they just miss their committee meeting and then one does not happen for a month and so on.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I think we have all been members of those committees. So community capacity building—they are all completed, did you say?
Ms Farrelly : They have funding agreements in place.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When are they due to expire?
Ms Farrelly : 30 June 2014. There are 65 community capacity-building projects in place.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What would normally happen? Would they be offered new agreements?
Mr Lye : That is a decision which is subject to government decision making.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What sort of work do they do? What do they deliver?
Ms Farrelly : There are a range of projects that support local communities—things like neighbourhood houses. For instance, there is the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre. The urban women's project is a project based in Fitzroy Crossing that strengthens relationships between Indigenous women and their families across the four language groups in the West Kimberley. So there are across Australia a range of projects that support individual communities.
Senator CAROL BROWN: In general terms, what would these agreements normally do in terms of being refunded? Is it just a one-off and then they have to reapply?
Mr Lye : With all the grant funding that we receive, government has to make a decision at the end of the funding cycle around, 'Do we continue to fund—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Sorry to interrupt, but are these three-year agreements or one-year agreements? What are they?
Ms Farrelly : The current projects are funded from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2014.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Do you do an evaluation of these projects?
Ms Farrelly : In general, many of the projects have reports they need to provide as part of their acquittals and part of the monitoring of their outcomes. In each individual funding agreement they have targets they need to meet. Those are monitored through our state and territory offices.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When would you normally advertise that the community capacity-building grants were available? What is the normal time frame?
Ms Farrelly : As Mr Lye said, those are decisions for government.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Whilst those agreements were funded for only two years, have they had continuous funding? Are some of those refunded programs or projects?
Ms Farrelly : I would need to check. My understanding is that some of them have been funded before, but I would need to take that on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: On notice, can you give the committee a list of those 65 projects, please.
Ms Farrelly : Certainly I can provide that list.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I would appreciate that.
Ms Farrelly : It may be on our website. In fact, I am certain that all of those current funded projects are on DSS's public website. I am also happy to provide that on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I would prefer it on notice. I am not really good with technology.
Ms Farrelly : Certainly. That is not a problem.
Senator SIEWERT: I will try my luck with this question. I was asking about the Social Inclusion Board in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet—the wrap-up and things. One of the issues is with the website that they had. They had a lot of really good information there. Is that going to be hosted somewhere else? Do you know the answer to that?
Mr Pratt : Possibly.
Mr Lye : We have taken over the functions that were with PM&C in relation to not-for-profit organisations and volunteering. It is something we are happy to look at.
Senator SIEWERT: People who use the website and access it for information have asked me to ask about it because they find it really useful. So if you could take it on notice that would be good. Do you now have responsibility for the national compact between the government and not-for-profit organisations?
Mr Lye : I am not sure that it is part of the new government's policy framework. As Mr Pratt, said the new language is 'civil society', and I think that the contrast would be that whereas the previous government had a view about a high-level compact with organisations, Minister Andrews has articulated most recently at the family relationships conference a different approach, which has many parallels in that it involves respect for the not-for-profit sector, allowing autonomy and allowing organisations to determine the way in which they are going to work, which gives effect to the community that has given birth to those organisations. The minister has a series of proposals which are about practical building blocks which give effect to a vision of civil society—longer-term contracts, reduced data collection for organisations, easier data collection, being able to receive information back from the government. There is a whole series of what I would describe as bottom-up practical building blocks that amount to a civil society agenda. It is a slightly different approach, which I think the minister has articulated most recently at the family relationships conference here in Canberra recently.
Senator SIEWERT: I know the one you are talking about. So the compact is dead?
Mr Lye : There is certainly a big work program for us which, when we put those practical building blocks in place, will build a very strong relationship of civil society and the non-government sector. It is a different way of doing business but it is no less respectful of the non-government sector.
Senator SIEWERT: With respect to civil society, not-for-profit organisations and volunteering, are we talking about all of civil society and not just be community services sector? How are you engaging with the others beyond the community sector?
Mr Lye : A lot of the proposals that the minister has articulated relate to community services programs, but the vision that he has articulated necessarily extends beyond community services, because if you give not-for-profits greater autonomy in a local community then, for example, they may see that the best way to tackle parenting is through provision of art classes, which might not have been strictly within the set of program guidelines. If you are giving them flexibility to achieve an outcome in a localised way then you necessarily are going beyond the community services sector. Similarly, there are organisations with diverse purpose, and so, where streamlining funding agreements and the like, you have to go beyond that traditional boundary. But certainly our first priority is the programs that sit within DSS.
Senator SIEWERT: That is my concern: environment groups are not for profit and are part of civil society, as are sporting groups, so how are you dealing with those organisations?
Ms McKenzie : In Minister Andrews's speeches, he has made it very clear that he has a very broad understanding of the not-for-profit sector. He has talked about the 600,000 organisations that are involved in the not-for-profit sector. He has not limited it to those that are involved in social and community services; rather, he sees it as something more broad. Certainly, in his talking about the National Centre of Excellence that he wants to see established to help civil society, he does not see that as being limited to just the sector or just the service delivery organisations; he sees it as a broader organisation that will help the whole of civil society.
Senator SIEWERT: Okay. There is no point in me having an argument with you about it. I have already asked about the consultation process this morning, but I would like to ask about the pay equity cases. Does primary responsibility now sit with you?
Ms McKenzie : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: I did ask some questions in PM&C, and they were very helpful, but they also said that I need to ask here about some of the detail. I was wondering if you have an update about WA and Queensland, who I understand have not signed on to that component of the Commonwealth-state process.
Ms McKenzie : Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: How close is that to being resolved?
Ms McKenzie : In the discussions with PM&C the other day, I think it is important to note that DSS pays the money and operates the fund but in fact it is PM&C and Treasury who negotiate the national partnership.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, sorry.
Ms McKenzie : So we can only say that we know PM&C and Treasury are seeking to renegotiate those partnerships and are doing what they can.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, apologies. I should have asked when I was over at Treasury yesterday; I ran out of time. Sorry. You may be able to tell me this, though. You will be aware of the WA Industrial Relations Commission equal pay case. As I understand it, there was some discussion about extending the process to cover some of that as well. That is a correct understanding, isn't it?
Ms McKenzie : There were some discussions about that.
Senator SIEWERT: Has that discussion progressed? Is the Commonwealth still considering extending coverage to that case as well?
Ms McKenzie : That is a matter that is currently with government.
Senator SIEWERT: So that is still being discussed. There has not been a final decision. Okay. It is good that you are still thinking about it, though. If that has not been resolved, I suspect you cannot answer any of my next series of questions, but can I just check. If you do decide to extend it, would it then be one mechanism that is used or would there have to be a whole series of other offers?
Ms McKenzie : I guess I would not like to get into the space of anticipating what kinds of mechanisms would be used. It is probable that it would need to be a separate mechanism, but I would really like to leave that.
Senator SIEWERT: Fair enough. Can I double-check that the only thing that is outstanding for Queensland and Western Australia is the process where it is the joint contracts between the Commonwealth and the state. Besides the WA-specific case, that is the only stuff that is outstanding, isn't it?
Ms McKenzie : That is my understanding, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: For the second lot of funding, the Commonwealth-state organisations, are the reporting requirements the same?
Ms McKenzie : Ms Board may be able to correct me if I get this wrong, but my understanding is that the first payments were made on sign-up and second and future payments would be made on the provision of a progress report.
Senator SIEWERT: And that is in terms of how the money has been expended and meeting the requirements for which it was given?
Ms McKenzie : Yes.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can you give me an update on the Gambling Impact Society's 'Consumer voices' pilot project?
Ms Black : The initial period of the contract we had was March 2012 to April 2013. The project has been extended from June 2013 to July 2014.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Did you do an initial evaluation on the first part?
Ms Black : We did. We gained feedback from a number of participants who had been through the program. That was in the order of 700 people, and the feedback was largely positive. On that basis we extended the contract.
Senator CAROL BROWN: That is good. Given it was judged a success and has been extended, has any consideration been given to rolling out similar projects?
Ms Laffan : I understand that, as part of the funding extension, the project was extended to further areas. It was originally for the Illawarra and Shoalhaven regions and was extended to Sydney, Newcastle, the ACT and the Greater Hunter region.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What is the status of the Australian Gambling Research Centre?
Ms Black : A bill was presented to the parliament yesterday with amendments to the National Gambling Reform Act. The Australian Gambling Research Centre is in that bill. It is established and it remains.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How many financial counsellors are currently funded?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Fifty.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Are you able to give me some information as to the take-up rate of these services? Where are they located?
Ms Hefren-Webb : They are located around the country in different locations. The locations were selected based on information about prevalence of problem gambling and other disadvantage et cetera. I do not think we have client data yet because the Problem Gambling Counsellors only commenced in May, June of this year. So we should get our first wave of client numbers in December or on 2 December and we should get that in February. Hopefully, at the February estimates I can provide that to you.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How long are they funded for?
Ms Hefren-Webb : Those positions are funded for two years—sorry, this year and 2014-15.
CHAIR: Let us move now to outcomes 10 and 11. Senator Bernardi, you have got questions where?
Senator BERNARDI: Outcome 11.
CHAIR: Let us move straight to outcome 11. Senator Bernardi.
Senator BERNARDI: I have some questions with regard to the Building Multicultural Communities Program, which was instigated by Senator Lundy as then minister for multicultural affairs. Shall I address them to you, Mr Pratt?
Mr Pratt : Something to start with!
Senator BERNARDI: I note that you are not the Immigration department but, on the website, it says there are approximately $4.5 million available for the Building Multicultural Communities Program. Are you able to confirm that that was the total amount that was budgeted for the entire program?
Mr Hoitink : $14.29 million was the amount that was identified for the BMCP.
Senator BERNARDI: So there is a typo on the website? You take my word for it: it says '$4.55 million.' I have been doing a little bit of research on this. I have added up the grants that are actually listed on the Immigration department website. It says $15.625 million, rather than the figure you just gave me. So my question is: why is this figure higher than what was actually budgeted?
Ms Bennett : The advice that we received is that it is slightly higher because the difference relates to some additional funding that was needed to be paid to organisations where they are not registered to receive GST and for two diversity and social programs of the project. So it was a slight adjustment in relation to the treatment of GST.
Senator BERNARDI: The two-stream funding—there are stream 1 grants of up to $10,000 and stream 2 grants of up to $150,000. So an eligible organisation could get $160,000 in total. Is that correct?
Ms Bennett : We would have to take that on notice, but some adjustments may have been made because of GST treatment.
Senator BERNARDI: Which would perhaps explain why there are more than 40 organisations that have total grants, as listed on the website, in excess of this $160,000 limit that I have deduced?
Mr Hoitink : Yes.
Senator BERNARDI: The website also details where the grants were allocated geographically. Are there any program details that mention the electorate in which each grant was allocated?
Ms Bennett : I do not have it by electorate. The locations are provided.
Senator BERNARDI: You will have to take my word for it. I have done an analysis of this and nearly 70 per cent of the grants were allocated to Labor seats before the election. Then I would add that another seven per cent, 27 grants, of the grants ended up in the Labor Party's alliance partners in the then government—Mr Bandt's seat of Melbourne.
And then, if we look at the other alliance partner as well, the seat of Denison achieved another 10 grants. That says to me, with my simple arithmetic, that nearly 80 per cent of all grants allocated ended up in Labor-Greens or Labor-aligned Independents' electorates.
Senator SMITH: Senator Bernardi, I might just draw a link here to an issue that was raised by myself earlier today. If I understand it, the question I asked was about a letter that was dated by Senator Lundy, being 5 August, the day after the election was called, the same day the caretaker convention was imposed. That letter relates to this program. Am I correct?
Ms Bennett : Yes.
Senator SMITH: So, to summarise, we have Senator Lundy sending out a letter on the day the caretaker convention becomes effective, 5 August, writing out to many, many community groups—I have not done the work that Senator Bernardi has done—announcing funding that is in excess of what was budgeted for, for 43 programs which, I think, are in excess of the 160,000 program limits—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Chair, I think we need a question—so far, we have had accusations that, somehow thrown at departments that they are looking at who is the member for the seat—
Senator SMITH: Sorry to interrupt, Senator Brown—
CHAIR: Senator Bernardi.
Senator BERNARDI: Thank you, Chair. Let me turn to some of these grants because, quite frankly, there are truckloads of them, over 400—80 per cent of which went to the then government or their alliance partners in government. Are you able to tell me what some of these grants are for?
Ms Bennett : My colleagues have the examples that go—I would like to give you a sample of the grants.
Senator BERNARDI: I would actually like to inquire about some specific ones. I do not want your samples; I would like my samples.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Perhaps you would be able to tell us the process—
Senator BERNARDI: Could you tell me what the grant, for $7,205, for the Chinese Xinjiang Senior Citizens Association was for? It was in the ALP seat of Holt.
Ms Bennett : At the moment, we do not have with us applications by the grant applicants that were provided. We can certainly take that on notice. All I have available is a set of samples of types of activities that were in stream 1 or stream 2. But if you would like to list, where we can go into the grant applications and have a look what they were for.
Senator BERNARDI: Maybe I can be more general. Can you give me some examples of what the grants were intended to be used for?
Ms Bennett : Perhaps if I just step back a little bit: the announcement of these grants occurred on 12 April and the applications were opened around May. There were two streams or two types of grants that were available. The so-called stream 1 was for the purchase of non-fixed infrastructure, to upgrade equipment in existing facilities, to promote and foster social inclusion. That is the information that is available.
They were one-off grants of up to $10,000. There is a second stream, which contains grants up to $150,000, which was to enhance existing facilities, so they were more like capital works type grants.
Senator BERNARDI: Are you able, in the time that we have allotted, if I give you a list of some recipients of these grants, before this estimates hearing finishes, to provide me with the specifics of what they actually spent that money on?
Ms Bennett : We cannot provide them in time and there are a few reasons for that. This area of settlement in multicultural affairs was part of the machinery-of-government changes. As such, we are not on the same IT system and that information of the grant applications would be held back in Belconnen and staff would have to go out to Belconnen to provide the answers and go through the specific material.
Senator SMITH: Perhaps if you could give us an idea of what 'non-fixed infrastructure' means and perhaps some examples that would have fallen under non-fixed infrastructure and, more particularly, what we might mean by the word 'equipment' and what types of things may have been funded under the description of 'equipment.' The other, capital works and fixed infrastructure, I think, is sort of common place for most people. But under 'non-fixed infrastructure' and 'equipment' perhaps you can give us some ideas.
Ms Bennett : I have five examples of sample grants that were made available. One grant that was executed was about updating furniture and equipment for an Aboriginal arts and cultural centre.
Senator SMITH: Do you have the name of the seat?
Ms Bennett : No, I only have the name of the organisation. Another example of a grant was for the purchase of a laptop and multifunction copier, a projector and a tripod. Another one that was given was for aquatic equipment to teach water safety and skills. Another example was equipment for women to run a weekly market—that was for a group that was community organisation. Another example was a new oven for a kitchen run by volunteers. Another example—
Senator SMITH: What sorts of things might be involved in supporting volunteers running a kitchen?
Ms Bennett : This was an oven that was purchased. It was a specific piece of equipment. Another example was computers to facilitate digital inclusion. It was skills for disadvantaged youth that were supported by that community organisation.
Senator BERNARDI: Are there any such things as what I would describe as non-essential items funded in these grants?
Ms Bennett : I was not the decision maker in this process and I was not part of that department. The way the program was conducted—
Senator SMITH: Are there no officials here tonight that were part of the former multicultural affairs department/branch that might be able to provide some information around this?
Ms Bennett : My colleagues here came under the machinery of government changes. I am just giving you an overview about what the process was. The grants were announced and community organisations applied for them. Some 707 applications were received for the combined two streams. In terms of the nature of the things they applied for, the grant related to the type they were applying for in the stream, whether that was the oven or the computers.
Senator BERNARDI: I think Senator Smith has raised a good point. Were any of the officials that are here involved in this process?
Ms Bennett : Unfortunately, in relation to that point in time, Ms Cala has just recently been promoted to that position and Mr Hoitink joined after.
Mr Pratt : Can I suggest, senators, that you ask the questions and we will try to answer them to the best of our capability.
Senator BERNARDI: I appreciate that, Mr Pratt, because I am specifically interested in the fact that the minister signed off on these grants, it would appear, in a great hurry. I am concerned about the process that was involved in the determination of who these grants have gone to and the use to which they have been applied, and I want to understand exactly how this was gone about. It smells like a giant pork barrel, to me. Eighty per cent of these grants—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Is he going to ask a question? All he is doing at the moment is political point scoring—
Senator BERNARDI: Mr Pratt, 80 per cent of these were grants going to former Labor government aligned electorates.
Senator CAROL BROWN: and it is completely irrelevant. It does not even make any sense. You have not asked a question about process.
Senator BERNARDI: This has the stench of the Ros Kelly whiteboard sports rorts affair, to me. I think, quite frankly, that there needs to be a complete documentation of every single grant that has been applied.
CHAIR: Would you like to come to a question, Senator Bernardi.
Senator BERNARDI: I would like to know what the grant for the Chinese Jinjiang senior citizens association was for, or what the Jinjiang Chinese association of Australia grant was for, or what the Australian Arabic women's community group grant was for, or what the Coptic Orthodox Church of Western Australia grant was for, or what the Palestinian Community Association grant was for. I want to know what they were used for, and no-one here apparently can tell me—is that right?
Mr Pratt : I will just check with my colleagues if we are able to drill into this at the moment or we have to take it on notice. We will take it on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Quite frankly, you can put things on notice, just like everybody else does, Senator Bernardi. Don't come in here and be rude to the department people who are trying to answer.
Senator BERNARDI: Do you know what is rude? Abuse of taxpayers' money by your government—that's what is rude.
Senator CAROL BROWN: The only thing you are worried about is multicultural grants.
CHAIR: Senator Brown and Senator Bernardi! Senator Smith has a question around process.
Senator SMITH: Ms Bennett, you were good enough to start by talking about, I think, April applications opened and May applications closed. Can you continue to step us through the process until 5 August, the day the caretaker convention was imposed, the day that Senator Lundy signed the letter? Can you step us through April, May and August?
Ms Bennett : The announcement was made on 12 April. The details of what would be the eligibility criteria, which is when the grant applications were opened, was 31 May. The applications closed on 28 June. The department officials at the time compiled, assessed and submitted to the minister the list of grants for approval. That was submitted on 5 August and the minister—
Senator SMITH: Let me be clear here. It was submitted to the minister on 5 August by the department. Someone emails the minister's office or comes up in a car with the list of funding proposals that should be agreed to and funded on 5 August? Please correct me if I am wrong. Senator Lundy finds time on 5 August to sign all of those letters before 5.29 pm, which was when the caretaker convention is imposed. These applicants hear the good news that their programs or projects had been funded—funded for what exactly we are not yet sure because the appropriate officials are not at the table. That is not a criticism; that is just a fact. So we are not quite sure what they were funded for. So we could give the former government the benefit of the doubt and think that the non-fixed infrastructure, the equipment, the capital works and fixed infrastructure was all in accordance, or there might be some things under 'equipment' that perhaps would not meet community expectation or would not be described as a sensible use of taxpayer money in the context of this particular program. So the department sent it up to the minister's office on 5 August? Is that correct?
Ms Bennett : Yes.
Senator SMITH: Just to be clear, Senator Brown: on 4 August, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stood up and said, 'There will be an election,' and when officials come to work on Monday morning, 5 August, someone encourages them to send to the minister's office—not one letter, not one program—letters to be signed about funding projects.
Senator BERNARDI: I have one further question.
CHAIR: One further question, Senator Bernardi, and then we will have to move on to questions from Senator Siewert and Senator Brown.
Senator BERNARDI: My question goes to the appropriateness of the non-fixed equipment which Senator Smith referred to. You mentioned an oven and a coffee machine. Would they be an appropriate use of the grant, for example?
Senator SMITH: Or can we rule out a coffee machine?
Ms Bennett : As I explained, we do not have with us the actual details of what they provided in that information. We will have to take that on notice.
Senator CAROL BROWN: My turn.
Senator SMITH: Can we—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can I go back to outcome 10? You had your one question.
CHAIR: Have we finished on outcome 11?
Senator SMITH: No, because I think that Senator Bernardi does make an important point.
CHAIR: You really will have to finish very quickly.
Senator SMITH: I think Senator Bernardi does make a very important point. When you look at where those successful applications were, it does look like a high proportion of them were in Labor-held seats. It does look like the Australian Greens member/candidate for Melbourne did very, very well.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Senator Smith! The departmental people are here to answer your questions, not your accusations.
Senator SMITH: I can only identify seven successful applications from Western Australia. In summary, we have an overspend in a program—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Chair! Question?
Senator SMITH: Senator Brown, in all seriousness—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Seriously, this is just a misuse of the estimates process.
Senator SMITH: In summary, we have an overspend on a program—
Senator CAROL BROWN: You might think that, but we do not have listen to Senator Smith going on.
Senator BERNARDI: It is hard to hear Senator Smith with Senator Brown over there chirping away. How many grants went to your pork-barrelling?
Senator CAROL BROWN: Of course, I would be chirping wouldn't I, because I am a woman!
CHAIR: Senator Bernardi, please be careful.
Senator SMITH: My question is to the secretary. Do you accept, if there has been an overspend in a program, that 43 programs were overspent on the maximum funding allowed—and you can only take our word for it that at the moment there does seem to be a high proportion of funding going to Labor seats—
Senator CAROL BROWN: Just ask the question again!
Senator SMITH: and that if, and I think more critically, the department was asked to send up letters for funding applications on the day that the caretaker convention would be imposed, that might send alarm bells up? I hope, Secretary, that it was not done on a whiteboard, and I hope this is not a revisit of Ros Kelly affair, where we saw—
Senator CAROL BROWN: You are wasting time!
CHAIR: Senator Brown—or Senator Siewert, you have questions in outcome 10?
Senator SIEWERT: Presumably. I have just—
CHAIR: I beg your pardon, Minister.
Senator Fifield: Chair, I was just going to say that I think the secretary has undertaken to take the process questions on notice, and I appreciate greatly Senator Smith and Senator Bernardi's desire for transparency in the expenditure of public funds.
Senator BERNARDI: Just to clarify, Minister, we have also sought a detailed list of all the items that were purchased or intended to be purchased with these grants—
Senator Fifield: Yes. That has certainly been taken on notice.
CHAIR: Yes, I think that is understood.
Senator SMITH: Secretary, this is not a reflection on the officials at the table who were not responsible for administering the programs. We would just like to make that clear as well.
Mr Pratt : Thank you, Senator.
Senator SIEWERT: Presumably that evaluation will look at the areas where there are high levels of multicultural communities, and you may want to have a look at where those grants were made, along with that analysis of our demographics. I would also like to point out that I find it strange, if in fact what Senator Bernardi is directly implying is true, given that the main opposition in Melbourne was Labor, so why would Labor want to give us a leg up?
CHAIR: Was that a question, Senator Siewert?
Senator SIEWERT: It was a rhetorical question.
CHAIR: Do we have some real questions in outcome 10?
Senator SIEWERT: I did ask a real question. I asked for that evaluation to ensure that that was also looked into.
CHAIR: Thank you. Are there any further questions in outcome 10, which is settlement services for migrants and refugees? We only have 12 minutes left.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I appreciate that. I want to talk about the Settlement Grants Program. The funds, as I understand it, for 2013-14 were announced in April. Is that correct?
Mr Hoitink : Yes. The announcement was for $41.3 million for 2013-14.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How many recipients were there?
Ms Cala : For the 2013-14 round, there were 104 ongoing grants and 104 new grants approved in that funding round.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Have those service agreements been signed? Have the funding recipients received their—
Ms Cala : The majority have been signed, yes. There are a few that we are still working—
Senator CAROL BROWN: They are just going through the process? Okay. Are there any plans for the program for 2014-15? Do we know?
Ms Bennett : Not at this stage. Some of the grants were for two years; some were for three years.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I am sorry to interrupt, Ms Bennett, but are you able to give me how many of the agreements were over two years and three years?
Ms Bennett : I am able to provide the figures for the 104 new grants that were referred to. Fifty-six were one-year grants; 34 were two-year grants; and 14 were three-year grants.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Do the 104 existing grants, so to speak, have various numbers of years to run in their agreements?
Mr Hoitink : Yes, that is correct.
Ms Bennett : We would have to check that they are continuing.
Senator CAROL BROWN: With the changes, you mentioned earlier in the discussion on outcome 11 that you have had staff move over. How many have moved across? I probably should have asked this earlier.
Mr Hoitink : The section 72 which was signed by the Public Service Commissioner provided for 260 staff moving across. That does not include some corporate staff as well, but there are 260 certainly within the settlement and multicultural affairs area.
Senator CAROL BROWN: And they are in the process of having all the resources associated with those staff transferred over there?
Mr Pratt : Yes. That process is going very smoothly.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Great. I want to ask some questions about the Adult Migrant English Program.
Mr Hoitink : The AMEP, as part of the machinery-of-government changes, has moved, in fact, into the Industry portfolio.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Has it?
Ms Bennett : It is because the vocational education sector has remained in that portfolio, and much of the delivery is undertaken through the VET sector.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I did not realise that. Can you give me an update on Humanitarian Settlement Services, please?
Mr Hoitink : Certainly. We can say that, under the HSS program for the 2013-14 program year, some 5,380 clients have been assisted. That is to 30 September 2013. That includes, of course, refugee entrants, people under the Special Humanitarian Program and other permanent protection visa holders. We can also provide you with some other advice about the complex case program, which forms a part of the program as well.
Ms Cala : To 30 September 2013, a total of 25 cases have been assisted under the Complex Case Support Program, made up of 12 refugee visa entrants, nine permanent protection visa entrants, three Special Humanitarian Program visa entrants and one other client. This program is much more targeted than the HSS program. For example, in the last program year, a total of 136 clients were assisted under the CCS, just to put those figures in some perspective for you.
Senator CAROL BROWN: What sort of assistance is given?
Ms Cala : Under HSS or under complex case support? They are slightly different.
Senator CAROL BROWN: HSS.
Ms Cala : It is a range of support services to refugees and humanitarian entrants in the first six to 12 months of their arrival in Australia. It comprises a range of things including being met at the airport on arrival, being moved into short-term accommodation, initial orientation to the location in which they are being settled, connecting with services such as Medicare and Centrelink, and some basic household goods package provision.
Mr Hoitink : That process is on an as-required basis for those who meet eligibility arrangements. Effectively, the program is there to assist those new entrants to move smoothly into the community; to provide those core early services; to provide them with the best connection to the community; and to put them in the best position to be in to be an active, contributing member of the community as soon as possible.
Senator CAROL BROWN: In terms of appropriate accommodation, how was appropriate accommodation sourced?
Mr Hoitink : Under the HSS program, there are a number of service providers that we work with to assist with the provision of accommodation services. For example, I can tell you that in terms of accommodation services up until 30 September some 1,073 cases, which in fact included some 3,734 clients, were provided with long-term accommodation assistance; and some 596 cases, incorporating 2,148 clients, were provided with short-term accommodation assistance. The client numbers are higher than the case numbers, because often they represent a family unit. The settlement providers work closely with the individuals to assess their needs and to assess their longer-term needs and ongoing needs. They will work with that family in a case-supported way to assist them to transition into the community in the most effective way and to transition into accommodation that is appropriate to their circumstances.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How long would somebody need these services before they are able to transition?
Ms Bennett : We explained it. It is somewhere between six to 12 months.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Can that be extended at all, if someone is having a bit of trouble?
Ms Cala : It can be. It is not a hard and fast barrier. There are assessments that need to be done when a person exits HSS to ensure that they have the competencies that are required. If that is not the case, then it can be continued.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How many contractors or providers have you got?
Mr Hoitink : We have 18 providers in 24 contract regions.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Are those regions all around Australia?
Mr Hoitink : Yes, that is correct.
Senator CAROL BROWN: How long are they contracted for?
Mr Hoitink : The HSS arrangements are developed under a three-year contract, with the opportunity for extension. They came into effect in 2011 and are due to complete in April of next year.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When will you be looking at putting out a new tender or do you just renegotiate the existing contracts?
Ms Bennett : This was explained. It has an option. They were a three-year contract with the possibility of becoming a three-year plus, depending on the performance and the quality of services. We are looking at those issues at the moment.
Senator CAROL BROWN: So you are going through some sort of evaluation of the work that is being done?
Mr Hoitink : Yes, we are completing an assessment at the moment.
Senator CAROL BROWN: When is that likely to be completed?
Mr Hoitink : Under the arrangements in the contracts, we are required to advise the providers by January of the outcome in terms of the potential for the extension of the contract. We are moving rapidly towards completing that and being in a position to engage with the government, so that we are in a position to provide clear advice to settlement providers in time the January.
Senator CAROL BROWN: Sure, that is quite quickly then. Are you able to give me a list of the 24 locations? They are all around Australia, I take it?
Mr Hoitink : Yes, we have it. We are just checking to see if we have it available here, but if not we are very happy to provide that to you on notice.
CHAIR: Just one last question, Senator Brown.
Senator CAROL BROWN: I have a couple of questions, but I am happy—if you are calling time, because these will probably take a bit more time—to put those on notice. I would appreciate that location list. I thank you for your answers.
CHAIR: Thank you. Thank you, Senator Brown. Thank you, minister. Thank you, Mr Pratt and officers from the Department of Social Services. That ends this section of the estimates hearings for community affairs. We resume again at 9.15 with the Department of Human Services.
Proceedings suspended from 21 : 00 to 21 : 16