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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5944


Mr TREVOR (6:50 PM) —I rise to support the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Improved Support for Carers) (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2009. As you will be aware, Mr Deputy Speaker Adams, the measures in this bill are part of a 2008 budget measure of which the legislative component has financial impacts as follows. The total resourcing of all portfolios for the 2008-09 year is $15.5 million; in 2009-10, $72.8 million; in 2010-11, $89.9 million; and in 2011-12, $93.3 million.

Pursuant to schedule 1, ‘Amendment of the Social Security Act 1991’, from 1 July this year a person will be able to qualify for carer payment if one of the following circumstances apply: (a) care is provided to a child with a severe disability or severe medical condition; (b) care is provided to two or more children each with a disability or medical condition; (c) care is provided to a disabled adult and one or more children, each with a disability or medical condition; (d) care is provided to a child who has a terminal condition; (e) the care of two or more children each with a severe disability or severe medical condition is exchanged between the separated or divorced parents of the children; (f) care is provided to a child or children on a short-term or episodic basis; (g) care is provided to a disabled adult or a disabled adult and a dependent child; or (h) care is provided to any of the above while they are in hospital.

The qualification provisions for carer payment where care is provided to a child with a severe disability or severe medical condition, or care is provided to two or more children each with disability or medical condition, or care is provided to a child with a terminal condition, replace the current qualification provisions for care provided to a profoundly disabled child or two or more disabled children. Qualification for care provided to a disabled adult and one or more children each with a disability or medical condition is a new qualification provision that is additional to the current qualification provision for care provided to a disabled adult and a dependent child of the disabled adult.

This schedule repeals references to the terms ‘profoundly disabled child’ and ‘disabled child’ where the use of the terms are associated with carer payment from the Social Security Act. These terms are replaced with terminology related to the new qualification provisions inserted by the improved support for carers bill. The amendments contained in this schedule ensure that provisions contained in the Social Security Act, such as the care receiver’s income and assets tests, will apply to a person who makes a claim for carer payment after the commencement of the improved support for carers bill.

Amendments are also made to special benefit provisions to ensure that the improved qualification criteria for carer payment is reflected in the relief from the activity test that is applied to people who are not residentially qualified for carer payment. This schedule also makes amendments so that a person who is qualified for carer payment for care provided on a short-term or episodic basis is not qualified for a pensioner concession card but is qualified for a healthcare card. Finally, the provisions that relate to who can be the principal beneficiary of a special disability trust are amended in line with the improved qualification criteria for carer payment.

The Rudd Labor government is committed to improving significantly the level of assistance for carers of children with disability or severe medical conditions. This bill delivers on that commitment. The changes in this bill are the latest in a series of recent support initiatives that have been extended to carers. The 2008 one-off payment legislation delivered $1,000 to carer payment recipients and certain other pensioners with a caring role, and carer allowance recipients were, generally, paid some $600 for each person cared for. Then the Economic Security Strategy legislation of late 2008 provided some $1,400 to carer payment recipients and, generally, $1,000 to carer allowance recipients for each person cared for. These new budget measures are part of an $822 million package from the 2008 budget to support and recognise carers.

The amendments will deliver a new, fairer set of qualification criteria for carer payment paid in respect of a child based on the level of care required rather than the rigid medical criteria currently used to assess qualification for the payment. Estimates are that some 19,000 more carers will have access to carer payment from 1 July 2009.

As at January 2009 there were 2,795 carer allowance recipients and 941 carer payment recipients in my electorate of Flynn. The 2006 census recorded for my electorate of Flynn 4,562 people in need of assistance. That is the number of people with a profound or severe disability. People with a profound or severe disability are defined as needing help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication. The 2006 census also recorded over 9,000 people in my electorate of Flynn who in the two weeks prior to census night spent time providing unpaid care, help or assistance to family members or others because of a disability, a long-term illness or problems relating to old age.

As the father of a son with a disability who cannot live without a life-sustaining medication I congratulate these wonderful people for their efforts. I sincerely hope that this legislation goes a long way to rewarding them for their efforts. I commend this bill wholeheartedly, from the bottom of my heart, to this House.