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Monday, 26 February 2018
Page: 1771

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (10:43): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that the latest:

(a) waiting list for Home Care Packages (HCP) indicates that more than 100,000 older Australians are waiting for the package they have been approved for; and

(b) figures showed that the HCP waiting list grew by more than 12,000 between 1 July and 30 September 2017 and it is likely to continue growing without funding for the release of more packages;

(2) recognises that the majority of older Australians on the waiting list are those seeking level three and level four packages, who have high care needs including many with dementia;

(3) condemns the Government for failing to stop the waiting list from growing; and

(4) calls on the Government to immediately invest in fixing the HCP waiting list and properly address this growing crisis.

I want to highlight the slow-motion disaster that is unfolding right before our eyes—and that is the government's failure to adequately address home care for older Australians. While the government is failing to act, its own figures released recently tell us that 100,000 older Australians are languishing, many of them in limbo, waiting for aged-care packages, for appropriate care or for the care they need. This includes around 80,000 older Australians with very high needs who are waiting. Some of those with high needs have dementia. This is absolutely unacceptable in our nation. As I have said before in this place, these are some of our most vulnerable people. These older Australians have worked all their lives, paid their taxes and built the foundations on which we stand today for the lives we lead.

This government's own website states that most of these vulnerable older Australians will be waiting more than a year for a package that is appropriate for them. Deputy Speaker, you may recall that last week in this place I told you about a constituent of mine—and one of the reasons I have raised this issue in a private member's motion today is the many constituents who have contacted my electorate office—Mr Middleton, of Seaton, a man in his 90s, who contacted me after trying to access a package for his wife. She was placed on a level 4, after an assessment back in 2014. Unfortunately, she passed away last year, in 2017, without any assistance from this government. It is a cruel thing for someone who has worked all their life and brought up a family and done everything by the book for this nation to ask for a bit of assistance in their last few years and have absolutely nothing given to them. That is a complete outrage. This government just walked away from Mrs Middleton. Again today I stand with Mr Middleton to highlight this issue.

The government's commitment in September to readjust the ratio of aged-care packages to create 6,000 additional packages has proven to be woefully inadequate. We know there is a prediction that, every quarter, 10,000 more people will be put on the waiting list. The waiting list has grown by 10,000 in just the last quarter, meaning that these additional packages won't even come close to reducing the number of older Australians waiting for care. I acknowledge that the Minister for Aged Care is here. I know that he is committed to this issue but, unfortunately, his cabinet, his own side, are letting him down with the many cuts that have taken place.

There is growing concern from across the sector about the waiting list. Aged Services Australia and Aged and Community Services Australia have both used pre-budget submissions to urge the Turnbull government to fix the crisis. We know there is a crisis and it needs to be fixed. The latest data was quietly released, a month after it was promised to be released, as parliament rose at the end of the year. The government must urgently make a genuine financial commitment to address this crisis. More than 100,000 aged Australians have been assessed to be eligible for home care, and the Turnbull government is absolutely letting them down. The government has known about this urgent situation for months but has yet to turn its attention to this growing issue. Older Australians and their families are being forced to wait months—and many are waiting well over a year—for carers. Mrs Middleton went three years without anything, and there are horror stories emerging across the country.

Older Australians awaiting home care packages deserve to know when they will get access to these vital services. We know that keeping people home, giving them the care they require and the things they need in their old age, gives them a better lifestyle and more happiness in those last few years. If we don't do this, they become frail, they get hospitalised and they get put into aged-care homes, which costs governments much more than what a bit of home care would cost.

The minister's commentary on this crisis to date has been to point out that some older Australians waiting for care are receiving an interim package. That might be the case, and it is better than nothing; but when they get assessed for a level 4 and they are receiving a level 2, the care isn't adequate; we know that. We need this to be fixed. It is not acceptable. These are some of our most vulnerable people who have worked all their lives, paid their taxes and built this nation. We need to do better than what we are currently doing.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Is the motion seconded?

Ms Collins: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.