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Thursday, 22 October 1964

Senator COOKE (Western Australia) . - 1 would like to obtain from the Minister some information in respect of Division No. 475 - State establishments. I refer to item 01 in sub-division 3, which relates to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service - plant and equipment. The appropriation of £3,000 for 1964-65 is considerably less than the expenditure of £4,889 in 1963-64.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator COOKE - I would like the Minister for Customs and Excise to supply information in connection with Division No. 475, sub-division 3, item 01, relating to works services, Commonwealth rehabilitation service: - plant and equipment. The appropriation for 1964-65 for this section is £2,000 less than the appropriation for 1963-64. Why is this excellent section and facet of the work of the Department of Social Services given less this year than last year? Is it because the number of persons trained and treated in the rehabilitation centres becoming smaller each year? What centres - arc now operating? What is the actual number of pensioners who have been treated and rehabilitated? I would also like to know, if these figures are in the hands of the Minister's officers, the number of persons who, as a result of the training they received from the Commonwealth rehabilitation service, have been able to take their place again in . industry. I have been interested in this wonderful service for many years. When it first started, it did an excellent job. I hope that the fact that the appropriation this year is £2,000 less than it was last year does not indicate that there is to be any deterioration in the service.

Another subject to which I wish to refer is Division No. 475, sub-division 4, item 01, Homes for aged persons - grants to eligible organisations under the Aged Persons Homes Act. I have received, as I think most honorable senators have, correspondence from various organisations asking whether this particular grant for the homes for aged persons is being absorbed by charitable groups or, using the language of the estimates, eligible organisations, which ask approximately one-third deposit from the pensioner seeking accommodation and which seek grants from the Government representing two-thirds of the cost of building that accommodation. These organisations are giving an excellent service, but they are providing accommodation for people who are in better financial circumstances to the disadvantage of indigent persons who have no income except their pensions or no property or cash assets and therefore have no possibility of getting anything like £500 to £1,000 to use as a deposit on accommodation. I would like the Minister to say how many eligible organisations operate on the deposit system in providing accommodation to aged persons. What amount of the vote of- £3,700,000 is appropriated to that type of organisation for providing homes for the aged? Are statistics kept of the essentially charitable organisations which are providing homes for aged persons who are without capital and are the most necessitous section of our community?

One does not wish to be critical in these matters. If the amount appropriated is sufficient to provide for all the necessary services, then this question will not arise. I find, and I think other honorable senators have found also, that some pensioners cannot pay the deposit that gives them an equity in a building, and that a tremendous number of them are seeking accommodation that is not available to them. All the real charitable homes are full. 1 wonder whether the really charitable side of this service is fading out of the picture. Are there many applications for the type of grant that gives an aged person accommodation irrespective of whether or not that person has capital reserves of £500 to £1,000 to use as a deposit for accommodation? What amount of this money is spent in these two divisions, one of which is represented by organisations which charge a deposit and which operate under a somewhat commercial system, and the other of which is represented by charitable organisations that provide accommodation without deposit to aged people which, I believe, is the first concept of this particular type of grant?

I would like the Minister to give me some information in relation to Division No. 475, sub-division 4, item 05, accommodation for disabled persons - grants to eligible organisations. The Minister has given some explanation in regard to this matter, but I ask him whether he could make clear just what constitutes an eligible organisation in respect of these grants. Are the conditions that make an organisation eligible set out clearly? Has the estimated amount of £150,000 which has been set aside in the estimates been appropriated to satisfy one or two anticipated claims, or will this money be available to any organisation which can meet the requirements of the Department of Social Services, and be declared eligible to become an applicant for a grant? What qualifications are required by the Department before an organisation is eligible to participate in these grants?

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