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Wednesday, 6 June 2001
Page: 27460

Ms HALL (7:40 PM) —Last year the government heralded with great fanfare in its budget the Veterans' Home Care package, a program that is supposed to enable veterans to remain in their home. Unfortunately, it has been a program wrought with problems and is still, to a large extent, unoperational. The 2000 budget papers describe the program as an initiative that will assist veterans and war widows and widowers with a wide range of home support services available through Veterans' Home Care, which may include home help, personal care, garden maintenance, community transport, in-home respite care, residential care and care coordination. I am afraid to say that to date it is a long way from that and also there have been changes in the government's original plans. In a media release, Minister Scott said:

This new programme means that DVA will now provide a wide range of home care services to the veteran community on similar terms to those currently provided under HACC. Home help, personal care, garden maintenance, and other services will be available to veterans who are assessed as needing such services.

Mr Pyne —That's true.

Ms HALL —We will see how true it is. Similarly, in the Senate last year Senator Ellison said:

Through the Veterans' Home Care program, the department will now provide a wide range of home care services to the veteran community on similar terms to those currently provided under the Home and Community Care program ... it is a great initiative—

it would have been a good initiative if only it had ever happened—

it is an expansion of services to veterans in this country. Such things as home help, personal care, garden maintenance and other services ... This new program will commence from 1 January this year. It will offer targeted support aimed at improving and maintaining the health and wellbeing of veterans.

Let us have a look at what has really happened. As at 1 January this year, nothing. The latest information I have received from the Department of Veterans' Affairs is that it should be operational by 30 June this year. This matter was brought to my attention by a constituent, Mrs Pat Gascoigne, who lives at Swansea in the Shortland electorate. She was most upset. Her doctor had completed the referral forms in February this year and just before Easter she received a phone call to assess whether or not she needed this service. Her situation was being assessed over the telephone.

Anyone who has worked with elderly people or people who are in need of special services, special help or home care services will know that to undertake a proper assessment you need the OT to go to the home and not to use the telephone. Unfortunately, this government has delivered a phone assessment which, in Mrs Gascoigne's case, was highly unsatisfactory. When she received the phone call, she said, `I need some help with men's work. I need some help to do little chores around the house. I have a garden that needs weeding and every now and then I have light bulbs that need changing, the heavy things that I cannot do.' She was approved a program for three months of people coming to change her light bulbs. After speaking to the people connected with this, it has been sent back for another assessment. That shows you just how successful home assessments have been over the phone.

Part of this program was to provide service with lawns. The Department of Veterans' Affairs changed that to mowing a strip to the clothes line. Now the program will not include lawns at all. This program created a great expectation in the veteran community, an expectation that this government has failed to deliver. All it has done is create confusion and false expectations. There are many more people out there just like Mrs Gascoigne wanting help around the house who are being offered an inadequate service. (Time expired)