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Monday, 23 August 1999
Page: 8804

Mr BARTLETT (3:29 PM) —One of the measures of a civilised and caring society is the way in which it provides for the vulnerable, the disadvantaged and those with disabilities. Assistance for people with disabilities has come from a combination of sources: state and federal governments, large charitable organisations, local community based charities, church groups and a large army of volunteers—carers, relatives and friends—who selflessly give so much in the way of care to those in need. In my electorate of Macquarie in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, according to the latest ABS figures, we have 3,800 recipients of the disability support pension, yet this figure does not in any way adequately reflect the real level of need. It does nothing to indicate the level of profoundness of the need or the degree of disability of those suffering. It does nothing to indicate their dependence on the carers and the burden and strain that carers suffer. It does nothing to indicate particular local problems—and we have a number of those in the electorate of Macquarie.

Problems resulting from the isolation of scattered villages that need services are duplicated many times. Our more urban and metropolitan areas have services which are often not available in outlying areas. We have pockets of low income, low socioeconomic areas where the burden is particularly great on parents trying to access services for their children. We have a higher than average growth rate of people with disabilities in my electorate, yet we have also a large number of community based organisations doing their best to work to help these people, often in the face of extreme disadvantage. I would like to commend groups such as the Bridges Disability Service, Westworks, the Santa Maria Centre, Mountains Community Transport and Hawkesbury Community Transport, just to name a few—but there are many others—who do their best.

There are still many areas of unmet need for our people with disabilities. I would like to highlight a few of these. Firstly, there is the quantity and the range of accommodation needed. There is a need for long-term supported accommodation, emergency accommodation and planned accommodation for respite. There is a need for appropriate transition accommodation and a range of services from residential care right through to community housing and assisted individual accommodation. There is a need for fully staffed crisis accommodation for people with psychiatric disabilities.

Secondly, there is a great need for people, particularly those with physical disabilities, to have access to appropriate transport services. This is a real problem in the Blue Mountains and in some of the outlying areas of the Hawkesbury. There is a need for support services for community transport. There is a need for more access to public transport and greater assistance with individual private transport. There are also significant barriers to proper access to streets and public buildings. I know this is an area that both the Hawkesbury City Council and the Blue Mountains City Council are working on, but much more needs to be done.

Thirdly, in the area of day care options, there is a need for a much greater increase in services, especially for post-school age young people. There is a need for meaningful day care activities, recognising that many of these people will never gain independence or employment. There is a gap in developing skills in social interaction, leisure activities and independent living for many of these people. I know organisations such as Bridges are doing valuable work, but there is a need for so much more. There is a need for employment services to assist those with milder physical and intellectual disabilities back into the work force, into paid employment.

There is a need for greater help with aids and appliances for people with physical disabilities, including, for instance, greater help with the incontinence aids scheme and access to assistance such as wheelchairs. There is a need for greater respite care for carers—both in crisis situations and in ongoing planning for carers of people with disabilities. I was very pleased that this government recently announced an extra $150 million in addition to increases in the last two budgets to take the burden off the carers of these people. There is a need to continue to help ageing carers of ageing children with disabilities. Much more needs to be done to assist these people. (Time expired)