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Thursday, 26 February 1987
Page: 696


Senator HAINES —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Ministers for Community Services and Health. Is it correct that disabled people in the paid work force in South Australia have been notified by the South Australian Department of Health that they are no longer eligible to receive personal aids, under the personal aids for disabled people scheme, unless they have a health benefit card? Will the Minister confirm that there has been no instruction from the Commonwealth Department of Community Services to stop providing PADP assistance to disabled people who do not have health benefit cards? Will the Minister confirm that the May statement on expenditure cuts will not reduce the PADP assistance given by the Commonwealth Government to the State governments? Does the Minister agree that the actions of the South Australian Department of Health will cost some people with disabilities thousands of dollars a year and will act as a disincentive to many disabled people being in the work force? Finally, will the Minister convey these opinions to the South Australian Minister for Health?


Senator TATE —The Minister for Community Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question: The program of aids for disabled people is a Commonwealth scheme administered in South Australia by the State Health Commission. Similar arrangements apply in each State and Territory. An amount of $12.296m was allocated in 1986-87 for PADP, of which South Australia receives $1.171m. In October last year the Health Commission advised that, on its present rate of expenditure, PADP funds would be exhausted by mid-January 1987. As an interim measure it was agreed by the Commonwealth that from 24 October 1986 eligibility for PADP in South Australia would be restricted to persons in receipt of a pensioner health benefit card or a health care card or to persons to whom the handicapped children's allowance is payable. The Minister says in the brief that he is concerned that these arrangements may place an additional burden on people with disabilities who will no longer qualify for assistance under this scheme in 1986-87. However, it was necessary to introduce restrictions on expenditure in South Australia to avoid the scheme running out of funds before the end of the financial year. The Minister has asked his Department to examine other ways of ensuring that in the future limited funds for PADP are distributed equitably over a full year. In particular, obviously, it would be preferable to contain expenditure under PADP in preference to restricting eligibility. I am not, and I do not think anybody else is, in a position to confirm what may or may not be in the May expenditure statement.