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Tuesday, 10 May 2011
Page: 2079

Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (15:05): I seek leave to incorporĀ­ate two responses to questions taken on notice during question time. The first relates to a question Senator Williams asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, on Thursday, 24 March 2011, relating to the Gulgong hospital. The second relates to questions Senator Fielding asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General on 24 March 2011 in relation to concerns about Centrecare.

Leave granted; the document read as follows:

As part of a suite of health reform measures, the Commonwealth is providing $120 million in capital finding over four years to the states and territories for an additional 286 beds/bed equivalents to expand subacute care capacity in Multi-Purpose Service (MPS) facilities in rural and remote areas. This will be done under the National Partnership Agreement for the Expansion of Subacute Care in Multi-Purpose Services (the NPA).

The total funding available for New South Wales (NSW) under the NPA is $38.8 million. Following agreement of the NPA, funding will be provided based on an approved Implementation Plan, which will outline activities and required funding. NSW will distribute the funding according to local needs, based on this Implementation Plan.

The Department of Health and Ageing has also received a proposal from the NSW government seeking funding for a number of aged care places at a multi-purpose service in Gulgong. This proposal is currently being considered by the Department against the criteria listed in the Aged Care Act 1997.

Negotiations with the states and territories on the NPA will commence shortly.

In terms of recurrent funding for the residential aged care places, if the NSW government proposal seeking aged care places is successful, the funding for these places would be provided from the time the service (and places) became operational.

Senator Fielding asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General on 24 March 2011:

Q: Is the Government aware of concerns by Centacare? In particular that there is an eight week waiting period on post-separation services and that a decrease in funding will increase waiting periods further?

The Senator also referred to a lack of consultation regarding funding cuts.

Senator Ludwig -

The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to Senator Fielding's question:

The Government is aware of Centacare's concerns about waiting times in post separation services. The Government has received and responded to correspondence from Centacare about this issue. Waiting times for post separation services vary and can occur for many reasons, unrelated to funding cuts, including:

that clients need to go through a comprehensive intake and assessment process before the intervention can commence;

that group programs that run over a number of weeks may only be scheduled on a periodic basis;

it may take some time to locate, invite and assess the other party as suitable for the dispute resolution process; and

a clinical decision may be made to refer the client elsewhere for another intervention (for example, related to family violence) before it would be suitable to provide the family relationship service to that client.

The Attorney-General's Department will continue to monitor waiting times for post separation services.

Last year, the Government announced that some funding from within the Family Relationships Services Program would be re-directed to provide legal assistance and advice to help separating families resolve disputes with targeted legal assistance delivered by organisations such as community legal centres.

This included reallocating $48.4m from the Family Relationship Services Program over four years, with a total investment of $51.8m to help separating families resolve disputes with targeted legal assistance through community legal services.

However, the Government continues to provide more than $200 million in funding each year for the Family Relationship Services Program. This includes an annual investment of more than $90 million per annum for mediation services under the Family Support Program which supports separating families to resolve issues around children's matters.

Early indications since redirecting the funding indicate that this new approach to providing legal assistance for couples attending Family Relationship Centres has been positive and demonstrated that early and targeted legal advice can help couples resolve their disputes without resorting to the courts.

The Government has consulted extensively with the family relationship services sector on changes to their funding arrangements.

Further, the Government has also decided to defer the measures that apply to Family Relationship Centres until January 2012 to assist in transitioning to the new funding arrangements.