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Tuesday, 20 September 1994
Page: 994

Senator FORSHAW (4.28 p.m.) —Mr Acting Deputy President, at the commencement of her remarks, Senator Newman attempted to chide the Minister for Family Services (Senator Crowley) for supposedly referring to statistics but not to people. I remind Senator Newman that one of the major reasons that we are sitting on the government side is because we are a government with policies and a government that cares about people. One of the reasons why Senator Newman is still sitting on the other side of the chamber is because at the last election the opposition went to the people with a policy based purely on statistics—a policy based upon cutting health funds and slashing the services provided for aged care and the like.

  I address my remarks to that part of the proposition before the Senate that refers to people suffering from dementia. In the short time available I would like to outline some of the detailed programs and policies that this government has implemented to deal with what is recognised as a serious problem in this community.

  In the 1992-93 budget the government announced the national action plan, a major program with total funding of over $30 million—a program which has a very broad scope. It incorporates grants for projects demonstrating innovative service provision for people with dementia. It incorporates counselling services, information services and support for research.

  In addition to the national action plan, the announcement in this year's budget of $12.4 million for psychogeriatric units was the culmination of consultations and deliberations with a wide range of groups. It clearly represents this government's commitment to providing additional expertise and support to care for people with dementia and very challenging behaviours. A range of organisations and groups were consulted in bringing about that policy position. Carers, families, organisations and industry groups were all consulted. Of course, regard was had to Brian Burdekin's report in which he suggested that nursing homes and hostels are in need of increased expert assistance for people suffering from dementia.

  That $12.4 million will be used over the next four years to help meet the psychological health needs of elderly people in residential care. The initiative builds upon the national action plan previously announced. The initiative has two components. The first, as has been mentioned, is the establishment of specialist psychogeriatric care units staffed by people with expert knowledge and experience in the provision of that care, and working with established aged care assessment teams. The second component relates to research, as the minister stated earlier. It is a research project which has been developed in consultation with Aged Care Australia. So when those opposite make assertions that we do not consider people, we are in fact consulting the very organisations that represent the people in need in this respect. That research project will investigate the various care options available for people with severe dementia and identify those elements which are successful in meeting their needs.

  Another vital part of the national action plan relates to the training of workers involved in community care. As has been recognised, about half of the people with severe dementia live in the community with a combination of support from informal carers such as family and friends and formal services provided through home and community care funded agencies. The quality of the formal care is crucial to the quality of life of those people suffering from dementia. It has been recognised as an essential part of the national action plan that training for community care providers be improved and be made available on a wider basis. Under that plan, $115,000 has already been spent to develop a dementia care learning program. (Time expired)