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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7890

Ms STANLEY (Werriwa) (17:52): A measure of a society and a government is how it treats the people it is responsible for—whether it's properly funding preschool and child care so no-one is worse off and the children in difficult situations get the best start to their school education; whether it's properly funding primary and secondary schools so that every school is funded equitably, whatever the sector they are studying in; whether it's supporting penalty rates for those employees who work weekends and public holidays; or whether it's ensuring that our older citizens are supported and able to make choices about their support and care when age related difficulties mean they need assistance.

Our older citizens have the right to be able to choose to stay at home, and that is the basis on which the My Aged Care supports have been designed. It was Labor who introduced the historic Living Longer Living Better reforms in 2012. But, in the latest figures released last Friday, 108,000 of our oldest citizens are waiting for home care packages, and 54,000 of them have no package at all. Worse still, the average wait time for level 3 and level 4 packages is more than 12 months. As the chamber well knows, level 4 packages are for people who are determined to be in the most need. To stay at home, they need the most support—perhaps with personal care, home maintenance, shopping, transport to doctors and other things.

I was recently contacted by one of my constituents. She and her sister have been caring for their 92-year-old mother who has expressed her wish that she stay in her own home—something they want to honour, but they are finding it increasingly hard to do. My constituents work full-time, have their own families and, without the support the package could offer, they were finding it almost impossible to honour their mum's wish to stay at home. Thankfully, with my office's support, their mother has been given interim support while she waits for a higher package. For this family, it means they continue to assist her to stay in her home and meet their obligations to their own families and work. But they are looking forward to her needs being fully met when the package she's approved for is properly funded. This is certainly not the only example that's been brought to my attention.

The choice as to whether our older citizens should go into more supportive care like a nursing home should never be determined by the availability of funding. That should be the choice solely of the person and their family, with support from the medical team looking after them. Not only is staying at home preferable for the person because they can stay in neighbourhoods with familiar surroundings where they've lived for many years, close to their supports and doctors; it is also cheaper for the budget's bottom line than spending time in acute care hospitals or residential nursing care. The government has trumpeted 14,000 new in-home aged-care packages over the next four years—3½ thousand a year. While any increase is welcome, 14,000 is far from adequate.

The latest release of figures, as of April this year, shows that there is a waiting list of 108,000. We need to remember that these aren't just figures; each is a person, with a family, who is not being funded to the level at which they have been assessed. Many of those people have high-level needs and dementia. Given our ageing population, this waiting list will no doubt continue to grow and the crisis in aged care will become more acute year after year. While our older Australians are still waiting for care, the government seem unable to find any additional funding to address the waiting list, yet they are happy to provide $17 billion tax cuts for the big banks. Consideration needs to be made now to fix these issues for our older Australians.