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Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Page: 2605

Mr CONROY (Shortland) (10:19): My office is regularly contacted by constituents about the appalling aged-care and home care crisis that is unfolding in Australia. This is particularly important in my electorate of Shortland, where one in five people are over the age of 65. For these reasons, I wrote to the royal commission that is inquiring into aged-care quality and safety in Australia, inviting them to hold a hearing of the royal commission in my region. A hearing in Newcastle, the Hunter Valley or Lake Macquarie would also be easily accessible for people in Port Stephens, the Central Coast and the Mid North Coast, all of which have large aged populations.

Some of the stories we are hearing from the royal commission are truly shocking, and it is equally shocking to realise that there are some 129,000 older Australians on a waiting list for care at home. One of those is my constituent Wally, whom I have spoken about in the House before. It is now 12 months since Wally was approved for a level 4 package, and yet he is still waiting, receiving care at the lower level 2. His devoted wife, Edna, is grateful for help with showering and respite to do the shopping, but she is still not able to go to church, which she misses greatly. Wally and Edna desperately want to remain in their home; they just need the appropriate level of care to enable them to do so. And still they wait.

Another constituent, Colin of Speers Point, raised with me the red tape he faced with the application process. Colin was deemed to be eligible for a level 3 package but ran into trouble getting information from Centrelink that he had to provide to the Department of Health. Colin had told My Aged Care that Centrelink had made a mistake and he needed more time to provide the required documents, but he was told an extension was not possible. His package expired and he had to start all over again. This bureaucracy is unacceptable. It just makes it much harder for our senior Australians to get the level of care that they need and are entitled to.

Another constituent, John, raised with me the fact that packages are assigned to individuals and not to couples and that this can have serious ramifications when one partner goes to hospital, into aged care or passes away. John's mother-in-law, who lives in Redhead, lost her husband in December. He had been receiving a level 4 home care package, but, on his death, Joan was left with no care at all and had to begin the process of applying for care for herself all over again. If a package were assigned to a couple and one of them passes, moves into residential care or even goes into hospital, the remaining partner could be re-assessed to determine their needs and the appropriate adjustments could be made to the package, even as an interim measure. Instead, Joan was left without any care at all. Joan was fortunate in that she had family to step in, but that is not the case for everyone.

The government must hear these concerns and must respond. It must increase the number of home care packages to meet the demand, and it must hear the voices giving evidence to the royal commission. Our aged-care system is not working and the government must act.