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Thursday, 4 December 1986
Page: 3368

Senator DEVLIN —My question is to the Minister for Community Services. We keep hearing about big increases in services, yet people claim that there was no real growth in welfare expenditure in the last Budget. Is this true for the Minister's portfolio? What are the community service achievements of the Government?

Senator GRIMES —I thank Senator Devlin for the opportunity he has given me. It is not often that I get this opportunity without prompting. We hear of increases in services and cuts--

Senator Chaney —Is this a swan song or a curtain call?

Senator GRIMES —It is everything. I am changing my name to Melba. We hear that welfare expenditure has been cut and that services to people needing assistance in this area have been reduced. That is not true. It is worthwhile to remind people that there have been considerable achievements in this area in the last few years. In the area of child care we are providing 20,000 new places. By the end of next year the number of Commonwealth-funded child care places will have increased by 152 per cent. That is well on track for the 20,000 new places we promised we would develop. This Government will have provided more child care places than all previous governments. In the area of aged care services we are putting more emphasis on less dependent accommodation. So there will be increases in the number of hostels and in home and community care services and a slower rate of increase-but still an increase-in the number of nursing homes.

In regard to assistance for homeless people, expenditure on the supported accommodation program has increased six-fold. We have a greater capacity now to provide services which are suited to local communities and which correspond to the desires of those communities and the different conditions which operate within them. Recently we passed new disability legislation which will continue the work we started in providing demonstration projects. So, for the first time government funding will match the needs and desires of local communities, rather than their having to match their desires and needs to rigid government programs. In the area of emergency relief, again we have expanded expenditure in line with cost of living increases. We are developing new family support services. All in all, the Government's concern in this area is reflected in the fact that in the last Budget there was a four per cent real increase in expenditure in this area, despite the efforts of my ministerial colleague next to me, Senator Walsh. We will continue to increase expenditure in this area because it is a high priority.