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Friday, 29 May 1998
Page: 3462


Senator NEAL (10:41 AM) —I move:

(1) Subparagraph 18A(2)(c)(iv), omit "urinary and faecal" (wherever occurring), substitute "urinary or faecal".

There was some discussion earlier today during the second reading debate about the concern the opposition had about the restrictive definition for children under the age of 16 years. In fact, the terminology was `profoundly disabled' rather than `severely handicapped', which is the definition for those who are over this age of 16 years.

The government did go on to define what `profoundly' means. It requires at least three of very specific criteria to be met. Frankly, each of them in themselves is pretty severe: the child must be tube fed; the child has a tracheotomy; the child requires a ventilator for at least eight hours a day; the child has urinary and faecal incontinence; the child cannot stand without support; the child's condition is terminal and palliative care has replaced active treatment; and the child requires personal care on at least two occasions between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day.

Each of those is pretty severe, but under this definition it is required that three of these be met before the carer is entitled to this allowance. I suppose that is why I said at the beginning that, while we welcomed the introduction of this payment, it was pretty paltry as far as it went. For a child to have three of those seven things—each of them, in my view, requiring fairly strenuous and all-encompassing care—is a bit too severe in the circumstances.

The amendments proposed by the government broaden those criteria in a very minor way and extend them a little. Under their definition, a child under three who is incontinent does not come within that criterion, but their request slightly broadens it by saying that if it is expected that the child will be incontinent after three—even though the child is under three at the moment—then that criterion is fulfilled. With regard to their request No. 3, under their definition, if you have to get up on at least two occasions between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and the child is under six, you do not come within the last criterion. They have slightly broadened it so that, even if the child is under six at the time, if it is expected that once they are over six the carer will have to get up to them on at least two occasions between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. each day, then that criterion is fulfilled.

Of course, it is not sufficient that a child complies with one of those criteria: they must also comply with two others. So, having achieved one of the two matters set out in amendments 2 and 3, it does not necessarily mean that the person caring for them will qualify for this particular payment that is being provided by the government.

Our amendment to the government's request again is quite minute. In the fourth criterion, where it refers to the child having `urinary and faecal incontinence', the word `and' is replaced with `or', so in fact the child fulfils the criteria by being incontinent in only one of those regards rather than requiring them to be incontinent in regard to both aspects.

As I said, we are in agreement with the government's amendments, but we say that really does not take us very far.