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Friday, 22 February 1985
Page: 81

Senator ELSTOB —Is the Minister for Community Services aware of the special need for parents caring for physically and mentally handicapped children to have air conditioned homes and transport for their children? Is the Minister also aware of the particular hardship being faced by those parents on low incomes who provide these necessities for their children? Can the Minister say whether any consideration is being given to providing a means tested allowance or sales tax exemption for such equipment which is used for health and medical purposes?

Senator GRIMES —I am aware that some people have special needs for air conditioned transport and housing, especially for physically, and some mentally, disabled children. The schemes which are available, particularly the program of aids for disabled people, to provide assistance for disabled people in the community, do not include the provision of air conditioning units, nor do they include the provision of any other assistance to enable people to have air conditioning units. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service does not cater for children, so that the air conditioning requirements of children are not covered by this route. The particular problem to which Senator Elstob referred, from memory, was not raised by any parents-if it was, it was raised by very few parents-or disabled people in the very extensive Handicapped Programs Review that we have just completed.

The general issue of means testing for the provision of aids for disabled people and tax exemption or tax deductibility for the provision of such aids is raised in the report of the Review, which will shortly be available to honourable senators. I point out to Senator Elstob that the cost of the provision of aids such as air conditioning to disabled people generally, and disabled children in particular, would be considerable. I will obtain some figures, if possible, about the costs of tax exemptions or tax deductions in this area. I hope that Senator Elstob and other honourable senators will consider the suggestions made in the Handicapped Programs Review report which will shortly be available, in the hope that we can all overcome what I admit is a very unsatisfactory situation in regard to the existing programs for the provision of aids of this type.