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International Year for Disabled Persons: initiatives in health field

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The Minister for Health, the Hon. Michael MacKellar, tonight

gave details of four initiatives in the health field to be launched

during the International Year for Disabled Persons. -1. Program of aids for the disabled ' . .

The Government recognises the importance of assisting disabled

people to reduce their dependence on other people'to a minimum in

order to allow them to live a fuller and more meaningful- life. . • > · "

It has therefore been decided, Mr MacKellar said, to introduce ' ■' ' ‘

a special program under which aids to daily living will be available

to the disabled. . A sum of $700 000 has been allocated for the t* .

program in 1980-81. . "

The funds will be used for projects in the homes of disabled

people,, such as the Widening of doorways and the provision of access

ramps for wheelchairs.

People would also be provided with wheelchairs on loan, with

orthopaedic devices such as surgical footwear and braces, and with

walking aids.

* ^< Ψ

The Minister emphasised that the a-im of the program was to • ’ · ; ’ :

increase the level of independence-" of disabled people in the home,

and to reduce the necessity for them to be cared for in hospitals

and nursing homes. _ ’· .

He said the program would apply to people who were currently

ineligible to receive aide through existing arrangements under the

Veterans' Affairs, Social Security and public hospital systems. These

would include a high proportion of disabled people on lower incomes.

Mr MacKellar said work would begin immediately on procedures

to establish the program with the aim of introducing it ir. April 1??1.

Its future development would be undertaken in the light of experience

during the first few months of its operation.

Discussions would be held with State and Territory health

authorities as soon as possible on administrative arrangements for

providing the aids.

2. Extension of the Medical Benefits Schedule to include items associated with orthodontic treatment for cleft.lip and cleft palate conditions. v ' -_____

aSome 600 children are born in Australia .^ach.year with cleft , . " Ή ' ·ÎŽ . ■

lip and cleft palate conditions which require multi-disciplinary treatment ' n . " ‘■ »ir 4 , -

from birth by doctors, orthodontists and related practitioners.

„ " ' · - ··'·

Mr MacKellar said the treatment was expensive and placed a ' · * · ? -

heavy financial burden on the families of such children. • · . . . · % " t : \

- ♦!.· - /·-

He said that although some treatments carried out by"doctors

and certain approved dentists (working in hospital operating

theatres) were already covered by medical benefits, orthodontic and

related treatment carried out in private practice was not, and

parents had to meet the full cost themselves.

To overcome this situation, the Government had decided to (

extend the Medical Benefits Schedule as from 1 January, 1981,

so that children with cleft lip and cleft palate conditions could . . X v

receive financial help for orthodontic and associated treatment. ' . * * # % ' "

The Minister said .a total of $1 million had been provided

for the program in 1980-81. .

3. Accommodation for.profoundly intellectually handicapped people in the A.C.T.______ ' ______________________________

The Government has moVed.'to ease the considerable hardship faced

by profoundly and moderately intellectually handicapped people in

the A.C.T. and their families. "


Because of a shortage of suitable accommodation, such people

et present were either accommodated in N.S.W. institutions, in

-A.C.T. hostels designed for people with lesser intellectual

handicaps, or in their own homes. . ■

Mr MacKellar said that to help relieve this situation, twenty

beds for profoundly intellectually handicapped people were to be

provided in existing health care facilities in the A.C.T. , -The Government has allocated $20 000 for capital costs and -$274 000 for operating costs of the project in' 1980-81,■ ' £ · _ The Minister said the new program would also free accommodation

for moderately handicapped people who at present faced long delays

in gaining admission to hostels. ' ' ;- '

He added that it was'planned to open the beds progressively

from October I960. Operating costs for a full year were ;

estimated at $350 000. .

4. Short-term care for intellectually handicapped young adults · . in the A.C.T.________________________________________________

The Government has also recognised the difficulties faced by

A.C.T. families caring for intellectually handicapped' young people.

Mr liacKellar said a number of young people, aged from 15

to '25, were cared for satisfactorily in their own homes. However,

there was a need for their parents to ba given short-tern relief

from 'the difficult task‘of caring' for them, particularly when the

parents had to be away from Canberra. .

The Government has therefore decided to use existing accommodation

at the Chapman Hostel to provide.short-term accommodation for

non-residents. , ' ■ . · ■ .

The Minister said there were some fifty young people living with

their parents in Canberra who would benefit from the program.

The Government has allocated $14 300 for the program in

19SO-61. Operating costs for a full year were estimated at 324 500.