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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1224

Senator GUILFOYLE (Victoria) - The Aged Persons Homes Bill is very simple in its form. Its purpose is simply to double from $5 to $10 the .personal care subsidy which is granted to persons aged 80 years and over who are in aged persons homes. Senator Douglas McClelland pointed to the complexity of the legislation that covers services to aged and ill people. In that regard I make the comment that in my State of Victoria we have a very desirable feature in the citizens advice service which is provided at the local government level and is very helpful to the people throughout the community who benefit from the many areas of assistance under Commonwealth, State and local government programmes. The availability of some trained social worker assistance at the local government level to provide information on the services available is almost a necessity because of the very many areas in which assistance can be given.

With reference to the Bill now before the Senate, in view of some of the comments that have been made perhaps it would be wise for me to trace the developments under the Aged Persons Homes Act since it was instituted in 1954. At that stage it was instituted to assist eligible organisations on a non-profit basis. To religious and community service organisations that were willing to establish homes, the Government provided this new programme of assistance. In 1957 the original $1 for $1 subsidy was increased to a $2 for $1 subsidy. In 1966 this capital subsidy became available also for nursing home beds not exceeding one-half of the total number of residential beds provided by an institution. In 1967 local government bodies were included as organisations eligible under the terms of the Act. In 1969 there was a further amendment which provided a personal care subsidy of $5 a week for persons of 80 years of age or over who received approved personal care while living in hostel-type accommodation. The Bill now before the Senate doubles that $5 a week personal care subsidy.

This year it was a stated objective of the Budget to improve the care and services available to aged persons in aged persons homes, in particular those in nursing homes. In order to encourage the provision of the type of home provided under the Aged Persons Homes Act, we have already passed through both Houses of this Parliament the Aged Persons Hostels Bill. Although there was no debate on that Bill in this chamber, I think it is reasonable to recount the fact that under it there will be an opportunity to treble the amount of accommodation that is available in the States of Australia through the availability now of a grant of $7,800 per bed and an additional $250 per single unit for furnishing requirements. This is an extreme measure to assist the provision and development of accommodation for aged persons in the type of facility that is necessary for their comfort and care.

The doubling of the personal care subsidy is part of the implementation of the new 3-year programme to provide a stimulus to the provision of accommodation for aged persons. The SIO per week which will now be paid will be of great assistance to the institutions which provide the necessary care for these people. It is an incentive for institutions to allocate their bed space to the upper age group - that is, those over 80 years of age - where personal care is essential for them at a time when it is needed for many of the disabilities which they suffer. Most residents of non-profit hostel type homes will soon be receiving a pension of S20 a week plus S4 a week in supplementary assistance.

In addition under this Bill the home will receive $10 per week for those over 80 years of age. I understand that approximately 45 per cent of the residents of these institutions fall into this upper age group. Therefore, if we average the subsidy which will be payable to those institutions we shall find that approximately $4.50 will be paid to residents in these homes. I have seen figures which estimate that the running costs per resident of these homes is about $22 a week. It will be seen that as a result of the pension rate, the increased supplementary assistance and the fact that $10 will be paid directly to the home or the institution, some margin should be left to a pensioner resident for personal expenses. This, again, is a desirable feature as we have found for pensioner patients in nursing home institutions.

In the financial year 1972-73 the subsidy of $10 per patient will total approximately $3.2m. The amount will be more than $4m in a full year. These figures perhaps in themselves do not sound to be large ones in the total complexity of the social welfare section of the Budget. However, under this Bill, the assistance is directed to one sector of our aged community.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that the grants which have been made under the Aged Persons Homes Act to date total over $150m and that as a result of this assistance accommodation has been provided for many thousands of our aged community. Some 45,000 aged persons have been housed as a result of the Aged

Persons Homes Act. Some 20,000 aged persons live in self-contained units, some 17,000 in hostel type accommodation and 5,000 in nursing home accommodation.

The grants which were made during 1971-72 reached the record level of $23. 8m. The amount in respect of the accommodation approved in each of these 3 categories exceeds previous records under this Act. The homes which were established under the Aged Persons Homes Act accommodate only a portion of the aged community of Australia. And it should be recounted that over 60 per cent of age pensioners own their own homes and that many others are housed by their families. It is estimated that some 50,000 aged persons could be living in unsatisfactory accommodation - unsatisfactory because it may be at a rental which is too high for their pension to sustain or because the accommodation is of a level which we feel does not give them the comfort that they require. Therefore, with this in mind the new provisions under the Aged Persons (Hostels) Act should be of great assistance to those organisations which have already provided some measure of hostel accommodation and which will now have the government capital subsidy to enable them to provide many more of these homes in what we hope will be a crash programme over a 3-year period.

The fact that this Bill has the support of all parties is a desirable feature to recall. It should also be recalled that this legislation is part of a very big programme by this Government to assist the aged and infirm in our community. We hope that the provision of the extra $5 per resident per week will enable those institutions to provide comfort, care and service to the aged in the community. We hope that the running costs which they are sustaining will be greatly assisted by this new subsidy. I feel that the desirable feature about this legislation which has been added is the fact that some personal income may be retained by a pensioner patient who is resident in one of these homes. I commend this Bill to the Senate.

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