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Wednesday, 27 March 1985
Page: 914

Senator LEWIS(5.56) —I support the remarks of my colleague Senator Jessop on what he called rest homes. In Victoria such homes are called special accommodation, which is simply full board in a residential building which has been approved by the Government. Three meals a day are provided to the inmates and care is taken to provide the inmates with their medication. Services are provided by way of general practitioners calling regularly, and there are other such facilities. There is no government subsidy for this sort of accommodation. I believe, as Senator Jessop does, that it is a matter of grave concern. The Government should be applying its mind to helping the people in this sort of accommodation.

The accommodation ranges from converted homes in which, I am ashamed to say, one might see four or more beds in one room and, perhaps, elderly people living in what I would call not very pleasant circumstances, to much more pleasant accommodation especially built for the purpose with rooms similar to those in motels. One person has his own bedroom with an adjoining bathroom with shower or bath facilities. There is a separate dining room and if it is specially built, there would probably be both a day lounge and a night lounge. There is no government subsidy for this type of accommodation. As a result, the free market forces push up the prices into various categories. The sort of accommodation where up to four people might share one room-I must say, that is unusual; the most is usually three people sharing one room-is provided to two people for just about the amount of their pension. Maybe they are left with a few dollars for personal expenditure. A lot of these people have very little expenditure at this age. They can survive perhaps on what is left out of their pension plus what they receive from relatives, friends, or even from the person running the home. As I say, that is one type of accommodation that would be covered by the pension. The sort of accommodation to which I am referring is motel-type accommodation, which is so much better, and the cost would range from $140 a week to perhaps $210 a week. I have heard of even more expensive accommodation. Honourable senators should think about that. I suggest that that is very reasonable for accommodation at a motel which provides three meals a day. The price ranges from $20 to $30 a day for full board. That accommodation is, in effect, keeping people out of hospital. If they went into hospital the cost would be in excess of $250 a day for 24-hour a day care.

A lot of people in this community wish to remain independent of their families. They do not wish to become a burden on their families. As a result of their efforts and the efforts of their spouse they own a house, probably a furnished house. They might have an old car and a few other assets, but the house is about the extent of their assets. Such a person, who is perhaps living alone because the spouse has died, finds it difficult to maintain himself and desires to move into the sort of accommodation I am talking about. The only way he can do it is to rent his house. These people then try to get about $140 a week income from their house and what they think they will get from their pension. Immediately they lease their house for any sort of a decent rental, that affects the revenue they get from their pension. They then have to seek a higher income for their house. They find themselves then in the position that the more they get from the house the less pension they get.

Senator Gietzelt —That is on the income test.

Senator LEWIS —I am talking about the income test; I am not talking about the assets test. These people are then pushed into a situation in which they are unable to get enough rental from their house to enable them to pay for full board in decent accommodation that they need to move into. Therefore, far too many of them seek the cheaper type of accommodation that I have mentioned before. They move into a converted home, sharing a room with one or two other people. In view of the sacrifices that they have made to get their house and their genuine efforts to keep out of hospital-24-hour a day care in hospital would cost the Government an enormous sum-I think it is worth while looking at how we can help these people. The only alternative is for them to sell their house and then try to get an increased income from the investment. But many of them do not want to sell their house because they have lingering in the back of their minds the idea that one day they might be well enough to go back into their home.

Many hundreds, indeed thousands, of these people around Australia are put into this very difficult position because we have set this income test on pensions which creates a problem for them in trying to maximise their revenue to get the best sort of accommodation in rental homes. It is a matter of grave concern to them and, I know, to the people who run these homes. They are not trying to exploit old people as some people think. I suppose there may be a few people who are like that, but mostly the people who run these homes are caring and concerned people who are worried about the elderly. They are also trying to make a living out of utilising an asset such as a home. The difficulty that is created for people who try to maximise their revenue to get decent accommodation and each time they maximise their revenue their pension is cut is, I think, a matter which ought to be of grave concern. I am pleased to see that Senator Grimes is in the chamber. I hope he will be able to tell me the Government's answer to this problem

Question resolved in the affirmative.