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Tuesday, 6 December 1983
Page: 3273


Senator ELSTOB —My question is to the Minister for Social Security. It refers to the handicapped programs review and its reference to the accountability of organisations that assist disabled persons. Can the Minister advise whether any submissions to the review have related to the lack of liberty and privacy in nursing homes and institutions where disabled persons live or work? Does the Minister agree that, where the Government allocates specific purpose grants to certain social welfare organisations, those organisations should be required to account for the quality of service they provide?


Senator GRIMES —Under the handicapped programs review now being conducted we have received in excess of 900 submissions. As is inevitable in this area, some submissions refer to the lack of privacy and personal liberty alleged against some organisations which conduct nursing homes and similar accommodation facilities for the disabled. This has been an issue over many years, as I am sure Senator Elstob will know. Honourable senators will realise that the Government's policy is to assist organisations to provide the least restrictive alternative to those who are disabled, and part of that least restrictive alternative is obviously the protection of liberty and privacy for disabled people in such accommodation. Some months ago I put out a statement pointing out to organisations that we will be considering present applications as well as past applications in the light of this principle of the least restrictive environment and that we will be reluctant to fund organisations that are restrictive in this way.

Organisations have limited disabled people's privacy in many ways, from the point of view of mere personal privacy, by not providing individual rooms or rooms where people can be private with friends or others, and of some organisations that restrict the liberty, one could say, of parents of disabled people by insisting that only the children of those parents who are willing to contribute certain funds or certain hours of work to the organisations will have their children looked after. I hope that in the future these restrictive practices will cease, and I know in some organisations they are already ceasing. We will be interested to see how many submissions we get as regards this aspect of the care of the disabled but we are certainly determined to make sure that in future that very important principle of the least restrictive environment does apply.