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Community Affairs Legislation Committee
Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs


CHAIR: We will begin with outcome 5, Disabilities and carers. Do you have an opening statement, Mr Pratt?

Mr Pratt : No, I do not, but I would like to echo Senator McLucas's thanks to the committee for being flexible around arrangements and allowing outcome 5 to participate this morning. Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Mr Pratt, we want to start with questions around the NDIS generally in terms of the focus at this time as we are in that program. Then we will go through to the questions by the program areas. Is that okay with you?

Mr Pratt : That is fine.

Senator FIFIELD: I think this will be a bit of an NDIS free-for-all, given the interest we all have in it. Dr Hartland, an NDIS unit has been established within FaHCSIA, which you head up.

Dr Hartland : That is right.

Senator FIFIELD: What is the name of the unit?

Dr Hartland : I am the manager of the Disability Long Term Care and Support Taskforce.

Senator FIFIELD: Okay. That is the title of it. How many people are in the task force?

Dr Hartland : Around 20.

Senator FIFIELD: What funding has been allocated to the task force for 2011-12?

Dr Hartland : Just under $3 million.

Senator FIFIELD: Does that $3 million come from the $10 million which was announced by the Prime Minister in August?

Ms Moses : $1.7 million of that is from the $10 million.

Senator FIFIELD: And the balance of the money?

Ms Moses : $8.3 million has been provided for consultancy and specialist advice.

Ms S Wilson : The balance of the $3 million—if that was your question—has been reallocated from internal funding. In fact, the $1.7 is also a reallocation of internal departmental funding.

Senator FIFIELD: So none of Dr Hartland's task force is being funded by the $10 million? I am confused.

Ms S Wilson : No, the $10 million comprises—

Senator FIFIELD: Some money which was reallocated from FaHCSIA?

Ms S Wilson : That is correct. Essentially, we have reallocated within the department from other priorities. We have looked at our overall departmental budget and made a decision about what the priorities are across the department. The Disability Long Term Care and Support Taskforce—is a new priority so we have reallocated within existing resources of departmental funding.

Senator SIEWERT: What I want to know is: what is not being funded now that this is being funded? What was a priority but is not now, because of this? I am not saying that this should not be a priority but I want to know what else—

Mr Pratt : Perhaps I can help on that. We will be able to talk about this in detail tomorrow across the portfolio if you wish. We will have all of the corporate people here. Essentially, the way we establish the budget is that we look at the money that is available to us for the financial year from government. We ensure that we have adequate resources for the top priorities and, essentially, we try and cut our cloth on that basis. So, while there will be a few things that we will be able to talk about in terms of things we stop doing, do less of or slow down, really the extra $1.3 million comes off the top.

Senator SIEWERT: Well, the $10 million comes off the top—

Senator FIFIELD: How much of the $10 million is new money?

Mr Pratt : The $10 million is reallocated funds from across the departmental funds and administered funds.

Senator SIEWERT: We will talk about that tomorrow. I am happy to do it if the people are there tomorrow, but I want to go into it in a bit more detail tomorrow.

Mr Pratt : Certainly.

Senator FIFIELD: Mr Hartland, your unit, I assume, has a role in developing the high-level principles.

Dr Hartland : They have principally been developed between discussions with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and their colleagues in the departments of premier and cabinet, but we have had a lot of conversations with PM&C and provided input to their process.

Ms S Wilson : That work was led by the first-ministers departments because COAG agreed that some high-level principles would be developed to guide the work of the select council. So first-ministers departments chaired by PM&C got together a small group, but that work happened in consultation with us. Similarly, in the jurisdictions I understand it happened in consultation with the line agencies there.

Senator FIFIELD: You said, 'happened'. That makes it sound as if the high-level principles have been completed.

Ms S Wilson : They are in the process of being agreed. They have been agreed at officials level and are in the process of being considered by first ministers in each of the jurisdiction and within the Commonwealth.

Senator FIFIELD: Dr Hartland, could you perhaps briefly outline the role of your task force versus the role of the COAG select council which I think is meeting this Thursday?

Dr Hartland : The task force is a group of Commonwealth officials that will effectively work to the select council and also support the minister in her policy development role in the Commonwealth government. The task force will also do a lot of the grunt work to support a senior officers' working group that will support the select council.

Ms S Wilson : In a nutshell, I guess you could describe it as—it will be the lead policy group in the Commonwealth. It supports an interdepartmental committee. It supports also the Commonwealth's participation in the senior officials' working group.

Senator FIFIELD: You said it supports an interdepartmental committee. What is the interdepartmental committee?

Ms S Wilson : There has been an interdepartmental committee on disability long-term care and support, which has met and will continue to meet as we work on these issues. I chair that committee. I also jointly chair the senior officials' working group, which is the Commonwealth state officials reporting to the select council. I jointly chair that with Nigel Ray from Treasury and it is comprised of representatives of disability agencies, treasuries and first-ministers departments. We have been meeting, for example, to prepare the papers for the select council meeting.

Senator FIFIELD: Could you provide to the committee a diagrammatic representation?

Ms S Wilson : We can give you a governance diagram, certainly. We will take that on notice.

Senator FIFIELD: That would be helpful. Dr Hartland, is part of your brief looking at the issue of funding and how an NDIS may be funded or is your brief primarily design issues, separate to funding?

Dr Hartland : We will be providing advice to the minister across the full range of policy issues that she will have to consider as she works through issues associated with the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The focus of the work at the moment is on what COAG expressed as foundation reforms and working with our state colleagues to develop the elements that you would need to have worked on to be able to launch a scheme in mid 2013. But the task force will provide advice to the minister on the full range of issues that she feels she needs to consider.

Senator FIFIELD: Have you specifically been asked to look at funding issues as yet?

Mr Pratt : Yes, funding is one of the issues covered by the Productivity Commission report. As indicated by Dr Hartland, this is one of many things we are advising government on and there will be other people who will also be advising government on issues like funding—central agencies, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and finance—and these will be issues that need to be worked through with the states and territories as well.

Senator FIFIELD: Dr Hartland, is your task force also looking at the National Injury Insurance Scheme? I know Mr Shorten has a role in that. Is your task force the primary advice provider across the range?

Dr Hartland : No, the primary advice on the National Injury Insurance Scheme will be from Treasury to Mr Shorten.

Senator FIFIELD: They are being separately supported.

Ms S Wilson : I think it is worth identifying that the interdepartmental committees' senator will consider the NIIS as well as the NDIS. So we are ensuring the work happens in a way that is connected and the common membership of Treasury ensures that as well.

Senator FIFIELD: There was a report, I think in one of the Sunday papers on 16 October, that Minister Macklin was going to be putting it to her state colleagues that she wanted the foundations for an NDIS to be brought forward to 2013. Is that the case?

Ms S Wilson : I think you might be referring to a press article that was in the Sun Herald on 16 October?

Senator FIFIELD: Yes—by Stephanie Peatling.

Ms S Wilson : That is correct. I have that in front of me, and it is correct that the press article cites that the minister desires to get the work done quickly so that, by the middle of 2013, we would be in a position to launch, in a range of geographic sites, the NDIS. So it is about getting the foundations ready for that to be possible.

Senator FIFIELD: I may have missed it, but I do not think I previously heard anyone in government actually commit to launch sites. I note that was in the Productivity Commission's time line. I may have missed it, as I say, but I am not aware that anyone from government has committed to launch sites.

Dr Hartland : The specific sites—

Senator FIFIELD: Not to specific sites, but to having launch sites.

Dr Hartland : have not been announced.

Ms S Wilson : At the launch of the Productivity Commission's report, the Prime Minister and the minister talked about starting to build an NDIS and getting ready for a launch. The date of mid-2013 was not mentioned at that time. That is the date that we have been working towards in our discussions with states and territories, preparing a work plan to be considered by the select council.

Senator SIEWERT: As to these sites, you are moving away from the idea of trials or pilots and it is now going to be a small-scale version of a larger NDIS?

Ms S Wilson : The Productivity Commission's final report moved away from the language of 'trials' and used the language of 'launch'. The experience in launch sites would of course inform the broader refinement of the scheme and its incremental rollout, so they will be very important. But the terminology that was used in the final report was 'launching'.

Senator SIEWERT: How many sites are we talking about? Has that been refined?

Ms S Wilson : No. There has been no decision on that as yet.

Senator SIEWERT: So part of your process is defining where the launch sites will be?

Ms S Wilson : We will have to agree where launch sites would be, yes, once ministers are satisfied and select council and COAG are satisfied that the foundations are ready to be able to launch.

Senator SIEWERT: Is part of the foundation and of the process identifying what the criteria will be for the launch sites, and a time frame?

Dr Hartland : It may not exactly be a selection process with criteria because it will involve working with the states and territories. But, effectively, as part of the work with the Commonwealth and states and territories, there will be a process for identifying what would be an appropriate site to launch, whether the infrastructure is in place to do that and what needs to be done to be able to start a different way of doing disability care and support in that site.

Senator SIEWERT: What I would like to know is: how are you going to refine that? I know that already there are regions saying, 'We want to be a launch site,' and some seem to have pretty good cases already. So how do you do that so you ensure that those sites are going to be effective as launch sites and you are not getting a bidding war between various regions?

Ms S Wilson : You are correct: that is work that will need to occur. It has not started yet. It will happen and we will need to work with the states and territories, with the advisory group that has been established to support the select council and with other expertise to determine how you design a launch and what criteria you use to select sites. But we have not done that work as yet.

Senator SIEWERT: I would have thought that also goes hand-in-hand with the issue about building up and ensuring we have services that are ready to be part of that process. Surely you are going to have to identify the sites fairly early—presumably you will want to prioritise—so you can ensure that those services are ready to go.

Dr Hartland : Yes, Senator.

Ms S Wilson : Yes, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: Where I am going is: how soon will you make that decision on the launch sites and the criteria?

Dr Hartland : The actual announcement will be a matter for ministers. I do not think we have a definite time line yet that would go to the identification of the launch sites. We are aware of the need to start work in the areas that will effectively be the launches early to make sure that the service response is there—not just the service response but so that the people in the area know what is happening. As you might appreciate, a whole series of things would need to be done. We are aware of the time line.

Senator SIEWERT: That is what I am trying to get to: what is the time line for that? If you do not have one, how soon will you be setting that so that you can get that process going?

Ms S Wilson : We have a work plan that went to ministers on Thursday for consideration. They have not considered that as yet. That is dependent upon the decisions they make about their work plan, their forward schedule in the select council, and then providing that advice back to COAG. We are mapping the likely decisions that would be required at which points in time. It is a matter for ministers to agree that that is the schedule that they want to sign up to.

Mr Pratt : Senator, your premise is correct. This is work that we will have to do very early with the states and territories.

Senator McLucas: Our focus very much at the moment is on the work that we need to do around the foundational reforms.

Senator SIEWERT: Has the select council signed off on the 2013 date?

Ms S Wilson : No.

Senator McLucas: The select council meets tomorrow.

Senator SIEWERT: The date that we have been talking about, 2013, is a date that the minister has outlined but it has not yet been signed off by the council. Is that right?

Senator McLucas: The select council meets tomorrow and that is part of the deliberations of the select council.

Senator FIFIELD: Regarding the advisory group—I know the parliamentary secretary opened the inaugural meeting of that group—have those appointments now been finalised?

Ms S Wilson : Yes, Senator.

Senator FIFIELD: We know the advisory group has had one meeting, courtesy of the parliamentary secretary's press release, but what work has the advisory group done to date?

Dr Hartland : They met yesterday. They had a discussion with the senator about the need for reform and a discussion about the nature of the tasks that have been put in front of them. They talked a bit about their remit, the way they would operate and their terms of reference, and they reviewed the material that is going to go to the select council on Thursday so that they could provide advice to the select council.

Senator FIFIELD: The advisory group is going to be undertaking committee workshops, I understand—is that correct?

Ms S Wilson : The advisory group has three roles: broad stakeholder engagement and communication; providing advice on the foundation reforms and their appropriateness and progress against them with respect to being ready for a launch; and advice on any other matters that the select council seeks their advice about. Yesterday they agreed to meet twice more this year and they provided some feedback on the material that is going to the select council, which the chair of the advisory group, Dr Harmer, will speak to at the select council meeting on Thursday.

Senator FIFIELD: So they have had some input into the development of the high-level principles?

Ms S Wilson : The principles?

Senator FIFIELD: I know the principles are being done by the first ministers' departments, and we have the group of ministers meeting this week. The ministers themselves and the advisory group do not have any formal role in helping form the high-level principles?

Dr Hartland : The principles will guide the work of the select council.

Senator FIFIELD: I get that.

Dr Hartland : As has happened in the Commonwealth, there has been a thorough coordination around the Commonwealth's input on the discussion of the principles. This department and our minister have been assisting the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet with the discussions of the principles with their colleagues. We understand that has also happened at the state level. The advisory group has not been asked for their views on the principles.

Senator FIFIELD: And they will not be?

Ms S Wilson : No. The formal process agreed by COAG was that principles would be developed to guide the work of the select council. Those principles, subject to them being agreed by first ministers, very much reflect the values that were in the Productivity Commission's report and the design issues and considerations. I would have confidence that, given the discussion that we had with the advisory group on the foundation reforms yesterday, the principles would be concordant with the views and concerns of advisory group members—for example, person-centred approaches and those sorts of things.

Mr Pratt : To sum up on that, the advisory group does not have a role in determining the principles. Clearly, it will provide advice to the select council and to us on how we might develop and implement an NDIS consistent with the principles. But the advisory group of course is open to provide advice on whatever it sees fit—and, knowing the members of the advisory group, they will probably do that.

Senator FIFIELD: So this Thursday we have the COAG select council and on Friday there is a ministerial council. Is that correct?

Ms S Wilson : That is correct.

Senator FIFIELD: Does the ministerial council on Friday look at any of the matters that have been to the COAG select council, or are they two separate processes?

Dr Hartland : They are separate. Some of the work that will be done under the auspice now of the select council picks up work that was previously being done as a part of the National Disability Agreement, and the standing council will need to recognise those changed arrangements. So it will have a discussion on that issue but, once that settles, work on the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be done solely through the select council.

Senator FIFIELD: Will the select council issue a communique after its meeting on Thursday? Is that the anticipation?

Mr Pratt : That will be up to the select council to determine.

Senator FIFIELD: Have you already presented a draft communique?

Mr Pratt : I do not know.

Senator FIFIELD: I know these communiques are always drafted in advance and then tweaked on the day.

Mr Pratt : I am sure we always have a back-pocket communique somewhere, but whether or not the select council will issue one I cannot say.

Senator FIFIELD: That gives me cause for hope that it will.

Senator CAROL BROWN: With the select council meeting tomorrow, you said that the foundation reforms will be on the agenda. We have had a chat about the Productivity Commission's deadline of 2013. What sort of deadline will the states and territories need to have to have their work completed to meet that 2013 deadline?

Ms S Wilson : Firstly, the Productivity Commission did not have a start date of 2013 in their final report for a launch; their date was in fact 2014—mid-2014. Minister Macklin has signalled the Commonwealth's interest in launching earlier, as reflected in the press article at the weekend, and certainly a number of jurisdictions have said, 'We're keen to go as soon as possible and launch and test.'

The select council will be considering a range of deliverables within those foundation reforms and dates against those deliverables, which are the map of what it would it take to get things in place to be ready for a launch. So there is a work plan across the foundation reforms that is worked through deliverables and milestones. That is part of what the select council will be considering tomorrow.

Senator CAROL BROWN: Can we expect to come out of the select council some sort of deadline for states and territories if we are to meet a 2013 deadline?

Dr Hartland : There will not be any single deadline, because there are a number of strands at work. There are a number of things that have to be done, and they will have different deadlines and different sequencing. I think it is up to the select council, as we discussed in relation to the communiqué, as to what they say after their meeting, but certainly they will need to agree on a map and a timetable for officials to work to.

Senator CAROL BROWN: But there will have to be an end date.

Dr Hartland : There will be a number of end dates, because there are a number of things that have to be done—

Senator CAROL BROWN: What is the latest end date?

Dr Hartland : so I am just saying that, say, March 2013 is not going to work, because there will be some end dates that are earlier, some that are quite close in to mid-2013, so—

Senator CAROL BROWN: But you will have to set some dates—

Dr Hartland : Oh, yes.

Senator CAROL BROWN: whether they become flexible or not.

Ms S Wilson : The work plan going to the council has a range of dates against key bits of work that would be required to get things in place so that a launch could occur. So, for example, having an assessment toolbox that has been validated and there is confidence would work. That is one of the things that one could envisage as necessary.

Senator SIEWERT: Could I go back onto that process of the assessment toolbox. Presumably what you have got is, yes, there needs to be an assessment tool developed and there will be a process for developing and agreeing.

Dr Hartland : Yes. There are a number of steps, so—

Ms S Wilson : But that is a key piece of work. That is certainly the case, Senator. And we do not use the language of 'an assessment tool', because the likelihood, consistent with the PC's recommendation, is that you will need a toolbox or a range of tools, because of the nirvana of one single one is probably not there.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. I know that is causing some concern in the community. Obviously that is a key element of this. It is essentially 'who is in, who is out'—that is how a lot of people are seeing that process. Is that process going to be an overarching process that presumably has to be happening at the same time as all these other things are happening?

Dr Hartland : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: And what is the time line that you propose for developing that?

Dr Hartland : I think we are a bit in the hands of select council before we talk about specific dates. But I think it is probably safe to say that, if you stepped back and thought about what would need to be done, you would have to take a number of steps before you were confident you had an appropriate national toolbox. The first step is reviewing what is available, looking at best practice, then there will have to be a process of making decisions about what you would want in a national toolbox validating that. All these strands of work have a number of dates and milestones.

Senator SIEWERT: Development of that is going to take an investment of resources.

Dr Hartland : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Does the investment of resources come out of the $10 million that is being set aside for this?

Ms S Wilson : We have identified the need for some of those funds, and we have some propositions with the minister about where those funds would be deployed, which include funding expert advice or validation, testing or those sorts of things that would be required for several bits of work. It is worth noting that some of these foundation reforms have already commenced under the National Disability Agreement, or they pick up pieces of work that are commenced under the National Disability Agreement. Not all of them are starting afresh, so yes, there will be a need for some resourcing, and we have some propositions with the minister in respect of that.

Senator SIEWERT: With all due respect, that did not answer my question about whether it is coming out of the $10 million or not.

Ms S Wilson : Some of it will, yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Okay. Is the assessment toolbox process one that has already been established—

Ms S Wilson : Yes. At the last meeting of the committee of the services and disability ministers' council, it was agreed that this was an important early piece of work even though we hadn't got the final report of the PC, so some work commenced at that time on the assessment issue.

Senator SIEWERT: On that one, will the advisory committee be involved and/or will you have an expert group that is associated with developing that particular assessment toolbox?

Dr Hartland : Certainly the advisory group will be interested in all of the reforms, and so we would expect that they would want to look closely at that one in particular because it is so important. Whether or not there is an expert group has not yet been decided but—

Ms S Wilson : It is certainly possible. The advisory group wanted to get some more information about where the work was up to in respect of the foundation reforms before they made a decision about which they thought needed additional expert groups and so that is something they will consider at their next meeting, I believe.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of the breakdown, can we very quickly go back to the allocation of the resources, the $10 million. The $1.7 million was for the department and $1.3 million—or have I got it the wrong way around?

Mr Pratt : It is right on both counts.

Ms S Wilson : So we have around $2.9 million for the department or just under $3 million. Both the $1.7 and the $1.2 million are for departmental funds, so they are departmental funds being deployed for the task force and its work.

Senator SIEWERT: The $1.2 million was for getting independent—can you just explain that a bit or was it the other way around, I beg your pardon?

Ms S Wilson : Sorry; I do not understand your question, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: When we were talking about this before, I think Dr Hartland was breaking down what that money was being used for, and I am trying to pursue that. I thought you said that $1.7 million from the $10 million was for—

Ms S Wilson : No. Sorry, I have probably confused you.

Senator SIEWERT: That is not difficult.

Ms S Wilson : So the department had already identified ahead of the final report coming out that we would need to set up a task force and made a decision to invest an amount in it, which was $1.7 million. When the final report came out and we looked at the work that was involved, we reviewed internally within the department what was required for this work and made a decision to increase the investment to just under $3 million dollars, and so that is how the $1.2 million and the $1.7 million hang together.

Mr Pratt : Just to complicate things, I guess you could now say that the amount of money which is being attributed to this early work in this financial year is now effectively $11.3 million. There is the original $10 million, which had $1.7 million from departmental funds and, on the basis that Ms Wilson made a very persuasive case about needing extra resources, I found another $1.3 million for that purpose.

Senator SIEWERT: I do not think I am as thick as I first thought I was; I think that wasn't clear from what the explanation was first off.

Mr Pratt : Our apologies, Senator.

Senator SIEWERT: In terms of—and I will go through some more of the detail of that tomorrow—what the rest of the money is being spent on, Ms Wilson, when you were talking earlier about the money that has been allocated to the assessment toolbox et cetera, presumably that is part of that brief that is going to the select council or can we explore that a bit? I am trying to work out what we can explore and what you will tell me is: 'I can't tell you yet because it is going to council.'

Ms S Wilson : So we have some recommendations with the minister about where the $8.6 million would be spent. She has not as yet made a decision, but we have costed those foundation reforms that we believe we will need to buy some expert advice in for and we will need some money for field testing or whatever it is. Those decisions are yet to be made by the minister. In terms of what the select council considers, they will not be considering specific resourcing propositions; they will be considering the work and the milestones, and the resourcing discussion, I guess, will happen subsequently.

Senator SIEWERT: I am presuming I am still unable to discover that because it is advice to the minister, and at the moment the minister has not made a decision?

Ms S Wilson : That is correct.

Senator McLucas: It is also predicated on the deliberations of select council.

Senator SIEWERT: All right—so I will need to explore that later. When the announcement was made with the Productivity Commission's final report there was discussion and comment on the need to ensure, and we have touched on it this morning, that services are available. How much are you going to be recommending, particularly in the potential launch sites? Or is this a separate process?

Dr Hartland : It is a bit early, I think, to talk about specific allocations; but we are aware that this is a major change for governments and service providers. We are aware of the need to work with services. If you look at the world the Productivity Commission envisages, it is quite a different world for service providers. They may have talked to you as they have talked us about the major change that this would involve for them, and we are aware of the need to take them from where they are now to a new world.

Senator SIEWERT: So none of the $10 million is being used for that? That will be a separate allocation of resources?

Ms S Wilson : Separate decisions will have to take place around that. The $10 million is just for this financial year and it is just around doing this foundation and related work. If you look at the Productivity Commission's proposed roll-out, they had incrementally-increased funding associated with a launch. Ministers and governments are yet to make those decisions, but that will have to be a piece of work that is done and that identifies, in addition to what resourcing decisions have already been made, what would be required to do a launch.

Senator SIEWERT: If you can pull it off, I think it is great pulling it forward, so this is not meant to be a criticism. The time lines are changing from what was proposed through the Productivity Commission Report, and I am just wondering, therefore, what different decisions you are going to be making to match that accelerated time frame.

Dr Hartland : We are developing a work plan that will map the steps to get to 2013. I think the Productivity Commission had a very broad online but did not map it in the sense of April, May, June—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes.

Dr Hartland : We are effectively starting with a clean sheet of paper. That is probably not the right word, but—

Senator SIEWERT: I know what you mean.

Dr Hartland : So it is not that we are changing a map that the Productivity Commission already had; it is that we are developing a map to get to 2013. I have just one thing about the $10 million not going to the change of the services: stepping aside from the uses of the $10 million, which we have talked about—and that is in the hands of the minister—the work that we are doing at the moment is the first steps towards engaging with services to bring them to the new environment. It is not a black-and-white issue of, 'We're not doing anything that leads to services now,' and—holy hell!—two months before the launch of the scheme we will suddenly start talking to people. We are actually working on the elements that would allow us to engage with services at the right time now. I did not want to say that we are not doing anything that leads to that.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, I take your point.

Ms S Wilson : Sector and workforce capacity are issues that the PC report identified, including the significant change that would be required of existing services and the opportunity for new forms of service provision to grow and become available under a radically different approach to disability care and support. That is clearly one of the pieces of work that we need to pursue: how you bring the current sector with you and have them ready and how you look at additional—more innovative or more diverse—ranges of service provision.

Senator SIEWERT: I want to explore this in terms of HACC services and other community services. Can we identify, Chair, where on the agenda we do that? I always get this—

Ms S Wilson : HACC is not us.

Senator SIEWERT: I know, but what I am trying to look at is the fact that there are changes to HACC services coming, there is still—

CHAIR: I would imagine it is in 5.4, but I—

Senator SIEWERT: I might explore some more. I understand exactly what you are saying but there is also ongoing service provision now and there are changes to HACC services there. I want to explore how that is all integrating.

CHAIR: That could be 5.1, targeted services for community care.

Dr Hartland : No, HACC are not directly funded by this department, nor indeed by our SPP but, after the reforms envisaged in health, reporting on HACC will be included in the National Disability Agreement. So we will have a relationship with them but it is not like our relationship to Australian disability enterprises.

CHAIR: Those particular questions may not be relevant here.

Senator SIEWERT: I think they belong somewhere else, but it is absolutely critical. Isn't it a key part of what you are doing as well?

Ms S Wilson : We are doing some work with the Department of Health and Ageing arising out of the health reform agreement which goes to the transition of HACC to the over-65s and the under-65s in terms of what happens in the aged care space and what happens in the community care space for people under 65. That does relate to the National Disability Agreement in that the National Disability Agreement will pick up reporting on the provision of services for people with disability under 65-years-old who were previously HACC clients. But the question about the HACC transition—because the SPP in those jurisdictions that have agreed to it is transitioned to these new arrangements, Health is responsible for the actual HACC transition and the NDA will only pick up the reporting on the effort. Because it has been a Commonwealth-state program with state contributions and Commonwealth contributions to HACC, there will not be a direct line of funding from the Commonwealth in respect of community care for people under 65 who were previously HACC clients, because that will be held by the states in future. I do not know if I have explained that very well.

Senator SIEWERT: As well as could be expected. My concern here is that now we are going into the brave new world of NDIS and we are talking about improving service provision and making sure they are up to speed. How does that integrate? What is the process for integrating that with the current system—and the divide at 65?

Dr Hartland : The divide does work, because the NDIS will be for that. So, in a sense, what has happened is that there is now clearly a set up disability services for people under 65 that are in scope for reform. We are starting on the process as part of the NDIS to look at what has to happen for these services. We know we need to engage with them but it is a bit early to be specific about exactly what, how and when. It does fit with the health reforms in the sense that it is now clear there is a focus on services for people over the age of 65, that is integrated end to end with Commonwealth and state efforts—previous state efforts—and we now have a capacity to look at services for people with disability under the age of 65 as a whole. So, it does make sense to us, but we are still at the early stages of mapping how we engage with HACC services—what falls in, what falls out of an NDIS and how the new system will work.

Ms S Wilson : That goes across broader than HACC services, because the PCs proposal for an NDIS has these different tiers. Tier 3 is the funded packages, or the funding for packages, for people with severe, ongoing disability with a need for support. So a key question for us in working on an NDIS will be the eligibility criteria for that tier of support and what other support will be ongoing and necessary outside of that tier. So that goes to the question of broader community care and, potentially, intersections with the current HACC client group and a whole range of other issues. So we will need to work through that. We do not have definitive answers on that as yet but we are mindful that that is part of the design work that we are going to have to do. I hope that is a bit helpful.

Senator SIEWERT: Yes, it is. Obviously I will keep following this through estimates. My final question is about the Productivity Commission recommendations on the age care reforms, which are also pretty fundamental changes. Has that been factored into that process as well?

Ms S Wilson : We are participating in supporting the health department in their work on age care reforms. We are on an interdepartmental committee, for example. We have been having discussions with health colleagues about the boundary issues and the interactions between age care reforms and NDIS. So those sorts of system interactions and boundary issues will also be part of the design work that we have to do.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you. I could spend all day asking you questions about that but I had better shut up.

Senator McLucas: Senator, could I just point you to the press release that was put out on the day that we launched the Productivity Commission's report, where we identified that sector capacity and work force capacity were two key issues. I want to assure you that we are across all of those issues that you are raising, particularly with respect to the interface with age care. We are working very hard to deal with the issues that you are asking about.


CHAIR: We will go to program 5.2, disability support pension.

Senator FIFIELD: Good morning. I guess we should start with the latest figures on the numbers of Australians on the DSP.

Ms S Wilson : As at June this year, the DSP population was 818,850.

Senator FIFIELD: And the breakdown for male and female of that figure?

Ms Rose : Males accounted for 54.5 per cent of that number; females, 45.5 per cent.

Senator FIFIELD: Of that 818,000-odd, how many are in the musculo-skeletal category?

Ms Rose : That is 28.2 per cent.

Senator FIFIELD: How many are in the psychological/psychiatric category?

Ms Rose : That is 29.5 per cent.

Senator FIFIELD: The percentage in the intellectual/learning category?

Ms Rose : The percentage in that category is 11.8 per cent.

CHAIR: On the list that has been passed over is there an age breakdown?

Senator McLucas: Yes. We might have a look at the document and provide it to the committee as soon as we can.

Senator FIFIELD: I am sure you will be able to table some version of that before we finish today.

Ms S Wilson : We will.

Senator FIFIELD: If there is any additional information, I will put those questions on notice. I move to the impairment tables. The department would be aware of the work done by members of this committee on the impairment tables. I am not one of the members who did that work. There were a number of recommendations of the committee, one of which was to look for ways to expand consultation and evaluation of the revised impairment tables. Has any work been done to address that particular recommendation?

Ms Rose : Yes, Senator. We undertook four workshops in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We had a number of bilateral discussions via teleconference with pain management groups, the National Council on Intellectual Disability, hearing groups and vision groups. At each of those workshops we had very good feedback and input from a number of stakeholders who attended, including other peaks and also members from the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. We sent emails to groups as well to try to get further input if required. So we have been working pretty closely with a number of groups who expressed either some minor wording changes they felt would clarify the situation or, in other cases, where they thought perhaps the committee had not got it quite right.

Senator SIEWERT: I am wondering about the process. When did you hold those workshops?

Ms Rose : The Canberra workshop was on 31 August, Sydney was on 12 September, Melbourne was on 16 September, and Brisbane was on 29 September.

Senator SIEWERT: Let's go to intellectual disability. The area of contention, as I understand it, was the 70 to 79 group.

Ms Rose : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Where did you get to with that process?

Ms Rose : First of all, we clarified with NCID that the current manifest rules for people with intellectual disability remain in place—that is, people with a score of less than 70 would be granted DSP on a manifest basis. We have worked with NCID and now have a consultant called Dr Vivienne Riches who is an expert in the field of looking at adaptive tools to determine scoring for people with intellectual disability. We have just contracted her to come back to us within a week or so. We have been speaking to her for a number of weeks to come back with a proposal that we believe will make the table better.

Senator SIEWERT: Presumably, that will be included in the disallowable instrument?

Ms Rose : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Will you then take that back to NCID to see if they are satisfied with it?

Ms Rose : They are working with us. We are working on that together with them. With any of these changes, we also believe that it is important to take all of the changes that we make, minor or bigger changes, back to the original advisory committee and then back to the minister.

Senator SIEWERT: Where we up to with the pain management issue?

Ms Rose : We have had some input from them. We had a teleconference with them. They attended a number of the workshops. They have sent us some proposed track changes to the tables that they believe will make it clearer. Their main issue, I think, was that the introduction to the tables did not make it clear that chronic pain is a condition in its own right. We have agreed to make the clearer. They have also given us specific wording changes for a number of tables. People will be assessed across a range of these tables, so they have given us specific input and wording that they think will make it clear that someone with chronic pain can be assessed against table 1, 4, 5 or whatever it is.

Ms S Wilson : For example, if pain was affecting a person's ability to work, that could be assessed on the table for the function of lower limbs. We are working with them to make clear that the tables are appropriate for assessing the functional impact of pain on functioning.

Senator SIEWERT: Thank you.

Senator FIFIELD: When is the government planning to publish the final impairment tables?

Ms Rose : I imagine that that will be at the disallowable instrument stage. I have not had specific discussions with the office on that?

Ms S Wilson : We are still on track for the proposal be introduced with effect from 1 January. This work to refine the tables and then go back to the advisory committee will take place in sufficient time for the disallowable instrument to be developed for this year ready for the introduction next year.

Senator FIFIELD: Thank you. I wouldn't mind going to carers.

Senator SIEWERT: I still have some more on DSP. In terms of the other issues that came up during the Senate inquiry—and I realise there is an interaction with DEEWR here—there is the issue about people living in rural and regional areas with a disability and access to services and transport. Have you engaged with that further in terms of how people in rural and regional areas can access employment, given issues around mobility and access to transport?

Ms Rose : Not specifically, no.

Senator SIEWERT: Why is that?

Ms S Wilson : We do engage regularly with DEEWR on employment issues and continue to, but they are the lead department for employment assistance policy and employment support policy. I am not sure what you were anticipating that we would do in respect of that.

Senator SIEWERT: I am quite concerned about the impact that the new approach is going to have. With this and the previous changes there are a lot of barriers to people living in rural and regional areas who are living with a disability. You are responsible for policy on DSP. I will be asking similar questions with DEEWR next door. There are significant policy issues for people living in the bush, living with a disability, to be able to access employment opportunities because of travel. Have you talked about that with DEEWR?

Dr Hartland : We are certainly aware of the issues. As part of our work together on the budget measures that were announced last budget about participation, we had detailed discussions with DEEWR about the range of issues that are barriers to employment. We are aware of this issue, but I do not think we would see this issue as having a direct bearing on the impairment tables.

Senator SIEWERT: It is about what impact the impairment tables has and the budget measures that were introduced and what impact that has on people living with a disability. So the combination of changes to the impairment tables and the change in employment participation significantly disadvantages those living in the bush.

Dr Hartland : I am not sure how the impairment tables would bear on that. I do not think we would want to say that someone—

Senator SIEWERT: This is probably something that we need to go through in the Senate chamber rather than here. We already know that the disability tables are going to potentially mean that more people do not go onto DSP and the time frame is certainly longer for those to get on DSP because of the new budget measures that were brought in.

Dr Hartland : The impairment tables are an attempt to measure more accurately whether someone has an impairment that results in a disability that means that they cannot work.

Senator SIEWERT: I am not going to rehearse or go through again all the arguments that we have previously had and they are well on the record. The point is: are you addressing those issues or talking to DEEWR about how you address those issues for those who are living in the bush with a disability? They have significantly more barriers to access employment and participation requirements than those who do not.

Ms S Wilson : There are a range of forums in which these issues—in the generic sense, not specific to the impairment tables—get explored and pursued. One of them relates to the budget package, Building Australia's Future Workforce capacity and we have a steering committee and an underpinning project management committee that sits under that and which is looking at the implementation of those measures. Those measures went across both DSP and employment assistance for people with disability, including a whole range of new measures in respect of waste subsidies and the like. We have ongoing work that we do jointly with DEEWR and are pursuing with states and territories that looks at employment for people with disability broadly, including the positioning of mainstream services to support people with disability. The issue of transport is essentially a state and territory issue and is quite important in the context of a national disability strategy, but in terms of Commonwealth provision it is not an area where we are a provider.

Senator SIEWERT: I am aware of all the packages. I am aware of the transport issues with the state. The issue is that it is a major barrier to those people who live in the bush.

Ms S Wilson : The range of barriers that people face in accessing employment assistance for accessing employment are considerations that employment service providers are required to make as part of looking at the plan for an individual who is subject to participation requirements. It is something that is front and centre—what is available in the community; what a person's plan should involve, given their barriers and given the availability of services and support—but the specific question is how that is operationalised and not something that FaHCSIA is in a position to deal with. It is not our area of policy.

Senator SIEWERT: I will go to DEEWR and see if I can get any further. Could you please provide us with the numbers and outputs of DSP medical appeals for the last two financial years? You will obviously have to take this on notice.

Ms S Wilson : Yes, we will do that.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you also provide us with the numbers and outcomes of all the DSP appeals that were client initiated and policy-department initiated?

Ms S Wilson : Yes.

Senator SIEWERT: Could you also provide us with any reports or evaluations into the current 25-hour rule and what alternative policies have been considered in respect to the 25-hour rule?

Ms S Wilson : For carer payment?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes; thank you.

Senator FIFIELD: Would you also have that data for up to July, August and September or do you only have it up to June?

Ms S Wilson : You are asking whether we have any data that is more recent than June? I do not believe we have, I am sorry.

Senator SIEWERT: Ms Wilson, is that data given six-monthly?

Ms S Wilson : Quarterly, we tend to get it. I will need to take on notice what is available quarterly and what is available six-monthly and what is annually because we have different collections. I do not have with me the specifications for each of those collections.

CHAIR: We are now moving to questions on carers.

Senator FIFIELD: I have questions on carer strategy and awareness raising. The government has allocated $1.6 million for a national campaign to raise awareness of the role of carers. I would be interested to know what elements make up that $1.6 million.

Mr Pratt : Just to clarify, Senator: you want to know what the $1.6 million is to be spent on?

Senator FIFIELD: That is right.

Ms Angus : Sorry, but would you mind repeating the question, Senator Fifield?

Senator FIFIELD: Sure. The government has allocated $1.6 million for a national campaign to raise awareness of the role of carers. What will that be spent on?

Ms Angus : This has just recently been advertised. The idea of the campaign is to raise people's awareness of the role of carers and for carers themselves to identify as carers and therefore encourage them to access supports that might be available to them.

Senator FIFIELD: How will that be done?

Ms Angus : As I understand it, in a general sense, we have sought people to come back to us with their propositions on how this could be done. We have just opened the advertising. It was announced by Senator McLucas last week. We have asked people to come back to us with an outline of how they will utilise the money that is available to provide the campaign. So we have not specified particular individual elements.

Mr Lewis : The elements that we have asked them to come back on are: to promote the benefits, services and supports to carers; to encourage hidden carers, such as people who see themselves first as parents, partners, a child or a young person; and to raise awareness of carers who are Indigenous and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and carers of people with mental illness and people who misuse drugs and alcohol. So there is a whole series of elements.

Senator FIFIELD: Has the department written to a range of carer organisations and said, 'Come back to us with ideas as to how awareness can be raised'?

Ms Angus : It is a competitive tender process. We have advertised it widely.

Senator FIFIELD: So you have placed an ad calling for submissions?

Ms Angus : That is correct.

Ms S Wilson : We are just at the start. We will see different propositions that come forward and then undertake an assessment process.

Senator FIFIELD: Is the Young Carers Festival separate to that $1.6 million?

Ms Angus : It was advertised and launched at the same time but it is separate.

Senator FIFIELD: What is the budget for the Young Carers Festival?

Ms Angus : It is $1 million for 2011-12.

Senator FIFIELD: What is a 'young carers festival'?

Ms Angus : We are looking for a series of festivals to be held in each state and territory for up to 5,200 primary young carers aged between five and 25. We are looking for those to provide an opportunity to raise awareness of young carer issues more broadly in the community as well as promoting the fact that caring can be a positive experience and provide an opportunity for those young people themselves to participate in something that is fun and which gives them an opportunity to network.

Senator FIFIELD: The government has also undertaken to identify key legislation and policy for review to improve the recognition of carers. Which legislation and policies has the department identified as yet that could be improved to help the recognition of carers?

Ms K Wilson : We are still in the process of working with other Commonwealth agencies to identify legislation and policy areas.

Senator FIFIELD: So are you going to come up with a blacklist of bad legislation and bad policy across government?

Dr Hartland : We would not quite express it in those terms, I am sure, but we are working with other departments to see whether there are areas that need to be improved in the spirit of the guidelines that have been issued about carer recognition, yes.

Senator FIFIELD: But there is nothing you can share with us at the moment?

Ms K Wilson : Not at this stage.

Senator FIFIELD: I do not have anything further on carers.

Senator SIEWERT: I have questions specifically around grandparents as carers.

Ms S Wilson : Do you mean grandparents as carers for children?

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. Should I take it up there?

Ms S Wilson : Yes. If you are talking about grandparents caring for children in lieu of parents because of—

Senator SIEWERT: Yes. It relates to kinship. It sort of fits in here and I suspect fits in there as well, because there are the sets of grandparents that are looking after children with a disability and what they are able to access, and then grandparents as kinship carers. So I am happy to deal with it tomorrow, but it will probably bounce back here.

Ms S Wilson : It probably fits tomorrow, but we might ensure that our colleagues have sufficient information about the disability- and carer-specific provisions that grandparents could access so that you can handle them together.

Senator SIEWERT: That would be fine, and I am happy to do it tomorrow as long as I can do it somewhere.

CHAIR: Under families.

Senator WRIGHT: My first question is about mental health carers. Apparently there are a lot of problems with the establishment of a mental health consumers peak body at this stage and, as yet, there is no mental health carer peak body. Are mental health carers going to have their own representative body and, if so, at what stage of development is it?

Ms Farrelly : We are working very closely with our colleagues in Health, and we would suggest that you talk to the health department when they are on next about that question.

Senator WRIGHT: So that is more appropriately directed to them? I was not sure about that, so thank you.

CHAIR: So, Ms Farrelly, that means the peak body process would go to Health? Is that your advice: that the peak body questions would go to Health?

Ms Farrelly : Yes.

CHAIR: Senator Wright, did you have any particular questions about carers? That was a peak-body question.

Senator WRIGHT: No. I suspected that might be the wrong area. I do have a couple of others, though, that I think might be relevant. Again, I may be directing this one to the wrong people but I will try. This is in relation to the Personal Helpers and Mentors, or PHaMs, initiative. Is that a FaHCSIA matter?

Ms S Wilson : It is.

Senator WRIGHT: The National health reform: progress and delivery report released in September reports that key national health reform milestone No. 4.3 is to 'Expand community mental health services—more Personal Helpers and Mentors and respite services'. The report states that this initiative will be fully operational by 1 July 2014. First of all, what guarantee is there that those time frames will be met?

Ms Farrelly : I will start. You would be aware of the recent budget measures and the expansion of Personal Helpers and Mentors. There is $154 million over the five-year period, and the department is at the moment working on the detail of that rollout and will be working very closely with the sector and with other agencies to make sure that those time frames are met.

Senator WRIGHT: The other area of questioning I have is in regard to the siblings of young people with a severe or profound disability or a mental health condition. Just as background, in Australia there are over 250,000 young people under 25 years of age with a severe or profound disability and many more have chronic illness or mental illness. If we take an average of one sibling per each of those young people, that makes a very large number, about 250,000 siblings. There is certainly some research that suggests that siblings have higher rates of depression than their peers irrespective of whether they are actually pursuing a caring role. So in a sense this is an area which falls within caring but also outside caring, and I am interested in exploring what opportunities there are to get support for people like this.

First of all, does FaHCSIA perceive the need to provide dedicated support and advocacy for siblings of people who have mental health conditions or disabilities irrespective of whether they are their carers?

Ms Farrelly : You might be aware of the family mental health support services as part of our targeted community care program. There are 41 of those nationally. The aim of the services is to support families of people with mental illness. It is about the support that they need to understand the condition and its episodic nature and providing support to them as individuals advocating for their sibling with a mental illness. Also, in the budget there is an expansion of that element, so over the five years there will be an additional 40 of those services nationally. Those services can provide a range of things like helping families with referrals; home based support, including developing family centred activities to help family functioning; education; improving support for school attendance; and so on.

Mr Lewis : Also, the Mental Health Respite Program provides support for carers. It is particularly for any carers who are caring for people with mental illness in this case. It is another program that sits within Ms Farrelly's area. In terms of the family mental health support services, as Ms Farrelly said, the intent of that program is to look at people within a family setting, whatever that may be. The context of the needs of that person is taken into consideration.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you. Tell me if I am asking an inappropriate question here, but the government's National Strategy for Young Australians aims to improve the health and wellbeing of young people. How are siblings, as persons with their own particular needs and issues, specifically catered for within this strategy?

Mr Lewis : That might be a Health question.

Ms K Wilson : If I can clarify, I think the national strategy is a DEEWR strategy.

Senator WRIGHT: Does FaHCSIA have any plans to develop programs for siblings that are similar to MyTime for parents?

Mr Lewis : That would be a government consideration, really. FaHCSIA has not been working on that sort of program, I do not think.

Senator WRIGHT: There are no plans that you can identify?

Ms S Wilson : No, not at this stage. The family mental health services, as Ms Farrelly identified, do provide support across the range of family members, but the specifics of a program like MyTime for siblings of people experiencing mental illness is not on our agenda currently.

Senator WRIGHT: The National Disability Strategy was endorsed by COAG on 13 February this year. One of the listed outcomes is that family and carers are well supported. What performance indicators are or will be developed to measure how this is being achieved? Is there a specific acknowledgement in that document of the needs of siblings?

Ms S Wilson : The National Disability Strategy was released when it was agreed by COAG earlier this year. It does not separately identify siblings but contains recognition of the needs of family and carers for people with disability. In terms of performance measurement, the performance measures that have been agreed for the National Disability Strategy are actually population-level national measures that go to the high-level outcomes contained within the strategy—for example, employment, educational attainment and the like. So they are really pitched at very high-level outcomes in terms of indicating progress for people with disability across the six domains that the strategy covers: inclusive and accessible communities; rights protection, justice and legislation; economic security, which includes income support; personal and community support; learning and skills; and health and wellbeing. They are indicators that are captured in large national surveys, so they do not go to anything as specific as the issue that you identified.

Mr Lewis : There are some trend indicators within those categories that Ms Wilson has gone through. Under the personal and community support key indicator there is some data around proportion of carers of people with disability accessing support services to assist in their caring role.

Senator WRIGHT: The issue that has been raised with me is that siblings are not necessarily carers and it is not always appropriate to identify them as such. One of the issues is that, because of their relationship with the person with the condition, they have their own needs to be cared for. That is what I am addressing the questions to. Thank you for that.

Senator SIEWERT: I have a question that relates to carers and when they stop caring. I have had disappointment expressed to me that in the employment package—and we discussed that a bit earlier about some of the new workplace provisions that are in place to assist people to gain employment—there is increasing focus now on what happens with carers after they come out of caring. There is the process where people can stay on allowance for a little while and they are transitioned onto Newstart. Have you had any discussions with DEEWR about assisting carers? They are a specific group of people because, as you know, there are issues around not a lot of super, they have had to give up work so they do not have current work references, job experience, et cetera.

Ms S Wilson : In terms of how they would be assessed when they came onto Newstart, the time out of the workforce is one of the important criteria which would affect their identification of which stream of support they would receive. My expectation would be that they would go to one of the higher streams of assistance. I am afraid that DEEWR is the expert on the criteria. It has been an area of ongoing discussion with colleagues in DEEWR, including in the carer forum that we chair—of which they are a member—about how do we ensure early prioritisation and pick-up of people who have relinquished the caring role for whatever reason and are seeking to re-enter employment. I do know if you can supplement that in any way, Ms Wilson.

Ms K Wilson : Only to agree with everything you said. Yes, we are having ongoing discussions with DEEWR on this issue.

Senator SIEWERT: Do you have an idea of the numbers of people that we are talking about?

Ms S Wilson : Not with me, I am sorry, but we can certainly take that on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: I do have some fairly detailed data questions. I was just looking for a ballpark figure before I put those questions in.

Ms S Wilson : I do not have anything with me, I am sorry.

Senator SIEWERT: I will put those other questions on notice. Just quickly: in terms of the eligibility criteria for people caring for more than two adults living with a disability—this is the issue about where a child turns 16 and they transition from child to adult—and looking specifically at a family care situation, have you had any discussions with DEEWR or whoever around fixing what seems to me a bit of an anomaly?

Ms S Wilson : I think you might need to explain the issue. I did not quite grasp it.

CHAIR: We will not have time. It is right on 10 pm now. If the question requires more explanation I think it should go on notice.

Senator SIEWERT: I will put it on notice.

CHAIR: I thank the officers from outcome 5.

Proceedings suspended from 09:59 to 10:14