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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 6013

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (20:17): I am very pleased to be here this evening to pass on my observation to the minister that this budget continues the government's efforts to focus on improving service delivery, particularly in the area of case coordination for people who face very complex problems, have complex needs and face significant disadvantage.

I know that the Department of Human Services supports a great many very vulnerable people in our community, many of whom do face extremely significant impediments and disadvantage. I certainly know that constituents in my electorate of La Trobe regularly interact with Medicare, Centrelink and the Child Support Agency and that the employees of the department who work in those agencies do an extremely good job in extremely difficult circumstances at times.

This government, recognising the particular needs of individuals within the community, has already embarked on a series of service delivery reforms which co-locate services to make them more accessible, and I was very pleased to see that continued focus in this year's budget. From my own experience of working with, for instance, the Boronia Centrelink office, which services the needs of so many people in the northern end of my electorate, I know that Centrelink do an extremely good job in trying to assist people who have complex needs and face significant hurdles. It has been a priority of this government to make it much easier for Australians to access the government services they need, to simplify the interactions they have with government agencies and to really give them much better support and assistance when they need it the most. I know that my electorate has certainly benefited from the funding commitments this government has made which support families and pensioners, which have improved circumstances for the long-term employed and which support new parents. But in addition to those very practical measures we all stand to benefit from the better delivery of government services to those who face significant disadvantage. We know that some people in our society are doing well, but that a great many others are still facing significant barriers to other work, training or a range of other things. These are barriers which we know could be better overcome with some assistance and coordination.

Having a case manager available to assist a person with complex needs to get access to services will be invaluable. Arranging access to things like child care to help a parent access a job interview or arranging access to mental health services or assisting people to prepare for job interviews could quite literally have a life-changing impact for those individuals, their families and, ultimately, the community.

I certainly do commend the minister on her endeavours to emphasise those concerns in service delivery reform for better case coordination in the response in this budget. I suspect in particular that many of those measures will have a real and practical impact for many women, for those who are long-term unemployed and for older Australians, certainly in my electorate and right around the country.

With all of that in mind, I was extremely interested to see that as part of the service delivery reform measures in the budget that there is a $74.4 million measure to provide more intensive and tailored support for people in need through new case coordination services. I note that at this stage the program will be trialled at 44 locations over the next three years, including the 10 sites in which the government is making major new investments through its workforce participation agenda. I would ask whether the minister might be able to provide some more detail about how the case coordination program will work in practice. And could the minister also outline any plans for extending that program beyond the 44 sites in coming years?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): We are going to run out of time because a division is expected in the House, and I would like to give the minister an opportunity to respond. The member for Throsby has the floor.