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Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Page: 2416


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South WalesMinister for International Development and the Pacific) (15:02): I would like to add to my response to Senator Hinch yesterday regarding dementia services in Victoria. Yesterday Senator Hinch stated that the in-home counselling services provided by Dementia Australia have 'always been a free service funded by the federal government'. I'm advised that, unfortunately, the information he has been provided with is not correct. Previously, until June 2016—I'm sorry, Senator Hinch can't hear.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I think something has happened with the microphone, Senator Fierravanti-Wells. I would ask senators who are leaving the chamber to do so promptly and quietly, and everyone else to listen politely and quietly to the response from the minister.

Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: I will recommence. Yesterday, Senator Hinch, you asked me a question about in-home counselling services provided by Dementia Australia and you said that they'd 'always been a free service funded by the federal government'. I'm advised that that information is not correct. Previously, until June 2016, dementia services were funded through the Victorian government's Home and Community Care, HACC, program. In June 2016, the Victorian government transitioned their services under their Home and Community Care program to the federal government's Commonwealth Home Support Program. This included dementia services.

Further to this, I would like to clarify that the information that was provided by the Dementia Australia hotline that 'the government makes us charge that fee' is also not correct. Under the federal government's Commonwealth Home Support Program, the Commonwealth does not mandate specific fees. Fees are determined by the individual providers. In regard to your specific question about Australians who are unable to afford the fee, the federal government's Commonwealth Home Support Program clients are only expected to contribute if they can afford to do so. Those who cannot are not expected to contribute. This ensures that those who have the means contribute, while those most vulnerable are protected. In the 2017-18 budget, the Turnbull government announced a funding injection of $5.5 billion to extend the funding arrangements of the Commonwealth Home Support program from 2018-19 to 2019-20. This boost means that more senior Australians are receiving care.

Finally, in relation to your question, Senator Hinch, regarding waiting times, the latest advice provided to me from Dementia Australia is that there is currently no waiting list in places for services in Victoria. We will endeavour to continue to follow up about the six-week wait time, if you raise it again.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I just remind ministers that, if you are responding to questions that you've taken on notice, the convention is, if they're more than a couple of paragraphs, you would seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.