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Friday, 29 November 1985
Page: 2629

(Question No. 561)

Senator Reynolds asked the Minister for Community Services, upon notice, on 19 September 1985:

(1) Has the Minister for Community Services seen the recent welfare spending report produced by a Mr Scott Prasser when he was a senior research officer with the Queensland Welfare Services Department which shows that Queensland spends less per head on welfare than any other Australian State; if so

(2) Is the Minister confident that Federal funding provided to the Queensland Government for the new Home and Community Care Program will provide the same standard of care to the elderly as will be provided throughout Australia.

(3) What action will be taken to ensure a proper accountability of this finance.

Senator Grimes —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) I understand that the recent report on welfare spending in Queensland to which the honourable senator referred is an internal document prepared by Mr Prasser while he was an officer of the Department of Welfare Services. I also understand that the report has not been released publicly and as a consequence, I have been unable to obtain a copy. Some of the figures to which the honourable senator referred have however been reproduced in a recent article by Mr Prasser in the May issue of Australian Society. These figures indicate that, in aggregate terms, per capita state welfare expenditure, 1983-84, in Queensland was the lowest in Australia.

(2) Should Queensland decide to participate in the New Home and Community Care Program, I have every confidence that the Commonwealth and State will be able to work towards developing levels of care appropriate to the needs of the population. This will be achieved through the development of a comprehensive and integrated range of basic maintenance and support services thus enabling the frail aged and younger disabled to be maintained in their own homes preventing inappropriate or unnecessary institutionalisation.

The introduction of the HACC program is however contingent upon individual States signing a bilateral agreement with the Commonwealth. This agreement details program aims, objectives, a broad outline of administrative detail and, funding arrangements. It also provides for the joint approval of projects and detailed evaluation of new services and service types particularly during the first three years of the program. This will enable the evaluation of the Program against its aims and objectives ensuring that funds expended are directed appropriately towards the target population.

The level of funds available for home and community care services over the next three years are dependent upon States and Territories agreeing to participate in the Program. In those States/Territories that have agreed to participate the Commonwealth has offered to provide additional funds for the development and expansion of services. In 1985-86, an additional $25 million will be made available on a $3 Commonwealth $1 State/Territory basis and in 1986-87 this will rise to $30 million on a $2 for $1 basis.

From 1987-88 onwards, the Commonwealth will provide funds for existing and new programs under HACC equal to an additional 20 per cent over the previous year's expenditure unless otherwise jointly agreed by the Commonwealth and State/Territory Ministers and providing that the State/Territory increases its contribution to the Program by the same percentage.

In States/Territories which do not agree to participate, funds will remain at their current level indexed for inflation.

(3) The Commonwealth is currently developing detailed arrangements for the administration of the Program including financial accountability requirements. Under the terms of the Agreement, financial assistance will be granted to the State on the basis that the State apply that financial assistance in relation to the provision of approved projects. The State will further be required to furnish the Commonwealth with a statement giving particulars of that expenditure and certifying that funds were expended in accordance with the Agreement.

Should Queensland agree to participate in the Program there will be detailed bilateral negotiations on the information to be provided pursuant to these clauses ensuring that funds are accounted for to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth and State.

Under the terms of the Agreement the Commonwealth and State will also work towards the establishment of a comprehensive information system to enable the ongoing monitoring and review of the Program. This system will incorporate both statistical and administrative data in order to ensure both financial accountability and the measurement of the Program against its objectives.

In addition, the Program will be jointly reviewed every three years in order to evaluate and assess the nature and extent of the services provided. This process of monitoring and evaluation will ensure that the Program remains sensitive to the needs of the target population and will facilitate the development of appropriate and innovative methods of service delivery.