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Wednesday, 11 May 1994
Page: 633

Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Human Services and Health. The government will be aware that the current home and community care funding systems are in crisis because they do not meet the specific needs of people with dementia or their carers. Could the minister outline to the Senate what action the government has taken in this budget about that specific area?

Senator CROWLEY —Just to be clear, Senator Harradine: is this about the area of assistance for mental health and community services under HACC? Is that the honourable senator's question? Could I just be clear? Did the honourable senator ask about HACC?

Senator Harradine —Yes, that and the other funding systems are inadequate to cater for the special needs of people with dementia and their carers.

Senator CROWLEY —Yes, the government is very aware of that, and I was alluding to some of the extra money allocated in this budget that will be spent to assist people with both dementia and mental health illnesses. Some of those will be specifically targeted to community services. There is now a very clear recognition that community assistance is very, very critical.

  Funding in the community service area includes a number of allocations. I mentioned some of those before: in particular, the special money under the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service to deal with the rehabilitation of psychiatric patients and $12.3 million allocated to expand and enhance the national action plan for dementia care. Much of that dementia care is actually allocation of money for community care rather than institutional care.

  Some of that money will also go to assist nursing homes and hostels to deal with the difficulty of people who have behavioural difficulties in association with dementia. That is only a small number of the people. Many of the folk with dementia do not have a behavioural problem and are not a difficulty to be managed in nursing homes or hostels. Some are, and that is recognised in this budget with an allocation of special money.

  There is also $18.7 million under the supported accommodation assistance program, and that is to assist people with mental illness using those community facilities. There is considerable recognition that community facilities are very critical to assist people with these sorts of problems. But there is no way that we can do it without adequate funding to community services. There is recognition of that and assistance in this budget.