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Tuesday, 28 April 1987
Page: 2137

Mr HALVERSON(10.46) —One does not necessarily have to be living in isolation in the geographical sense to be living alone. In reality, one can be very alone living in a big city or busy street, particularly if a personal crisis occurs. One of the inexcusable tragedies of our modern society is that we have failed to find appropriate and acceptable solutions to this problem of individual isolation, and the hazards and dangers which daily confront those who live by themselves in circumstances which place them at special risk. The possibility of needing assistance in an emergency and not being able to obtain it easily and quickly is a daunting prospect indeed-for anyone. It is all the more frightening and intolerable for the aged, frail, ill or disabled.

The problem of living alone poses very real and potentially serious threats to the personal safety and well-being of this very vulnerable group of people in the event of sickness, accident or even physical attack. Not only does the possibility of what may happen destroy the security and peace of mind of these people; it is also a cause of considerable and continual worry and concern for their friends and relatives. As a result, many people who live alone-and are quite willing and able to care for themselves under most usual circumstances-have no option but to give up their independence and leave the comfort of their own homes. They must instead rely on finding accommodation in nursing homes, special accommodation houses, or hostels. They are forced to sacrifice the things and surroundings they know and love simply because, by remaining in a situation where they spend significant time by themselves, they are or may be jeopardising their own safety.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend to the House the work being undertaken by the Australian Contact Emergency Service-ACES. This Victorian-based, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-party political organisation is pioneering a scheme designed to assist elderly, isolated, frail or disabled people who want to remain in their own homes, but who are living in at risk situations. This scheme will enable such people to retain their independence, dignity and security by providing them with a means by which they can readily summon help should the need arise. ACES has already conducted a very successful personal emergency alarm system pilot project within the City of South Barwon. Details of this project were circulated to all members and senators last year. It is hoped that those who are genuinely concerned about the welfare and well-being of elderly or disabled people spent the few minutes required to read the letter and booklet which gave details of the ACES project and explained the aims and objectives of this very reasonable and worthwhile group of concerned citizens. Anyone who bothered to do so would no doubt remember this project.

For those who did not have the time or who opted to deal with this matter by asking their staff to `send out acknowledgment letter option 3', allow me to give a few brief details. The ACES concept is obviously one that is based on good old-fashioned common sense and sound economic and moral principles. It provides better and more acceptable alternatives than those which are currently available and offers the all too rare opportunity to obtain maximum benefits from minimum outlays. More importantly, it offers a simple and practical solution to an ongoing problem-that of creating opportunities for those who want to maintain an independent lifestyle to do so without unnecessary stress or worry because they are living alone.

If this Government is really interested in cutting costs, here is one area where it could achieve enormous savings whilst at the same time actually enhancing the standard of living for some of the genuinely disadvantaged groups within our community. Money now used to subsidise institutional care and accommodation for elderly, frail or disabled people could be easily and quickly channelled instead towards providing funding for the very minor expenses involved in implementing the ACES plan. Something in the vicinity of $10 per week would ensure that many of these presently vulnerable but `would be if they could be' independent people had the choice and opportunity of remaining in their own homes instead of being forced to seek government subsidised accommodation. Compare the costs involved-$10 per week as against, in some cases, $100-plus per day. The advantages are obvious.

The ACES scheme and the ACES Committee deserve the wholehearted support of both sides of this House, and I hope they will receive it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.