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Friday, 25 May 1973
Page: 2683

Mr JAMES (HUNTER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to the answer given to the honourable member for Macquarie yesterday on key money demanded of people seeking accommodation in aged persons home units. I ask: Does the Commonwealth meet two-thirds of the cost of these units? What steps does it propose to take to end this most uncharitable practice by charitable bodies and how extensive is this practice to his knowledge?

Mr HAYDEN - It is true that the Commonwealth meets two-thirds of the cost of these units and last year the Commonwealth contributed, from memory, about $24m. I am not happy with the practice of 'key money', as I indicated yesterday. I have had discussions this morning with the Minister for Housing. It is my own feeling that there are more satisfactory ways of developing a program of accommodation for the aged. I think that some unhappy imbalances have arisen in the present pattern of developing accommodation for the aged. It is my intention to send a proposal to the National Commission on Social Welfare and to ask it for a complete review of the basis on which the programs so far operated have been established and asking it to consider whether there are in fact better ways of providing such a program of accommodation for the aged. Of course, I will be putting forward some tentative suggestions.

The other question, the final question, that the honourable member asks is the more significant one. Since I answered the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Macquarie I have checked with departmental officers as to the amount of money which is being spent by the charitable organisations as their share of the cost of developing aged persons home units and which is raised from donations - and we must put 'donations' in inverted commas. The honourable member for Hunter calls it key money and I think that is more appropriate. The proportion of funds provided by charitable bodies which come from donations has gone from 35 per cent to 62 per cent in 18 months. I think that is a very unwholesome trend. Add to these facts the additional fact that in certain situations because of a succession of residents in a particular accommodation unit, it is conceivable that donations' can be requested on two or three or more occasions for the same unit. The last Government set about certain arrangements 3 to 3i years ago which it hoped would result in 50 per cent of the people accommodated in this sort of accommodation being people who did not make a donation. But there are loopholes or escape hatches in the arrangements - they are not intentionally there but by the nature of things this is the way it has developed - and the objective of the last Government is not only not being achieved but in fact is receding. I repeat, as I said yesterday, that I regard the practice as unsavoury. I do not regard it as particularly charitable and I believe that there has to be new thinking and new orientation in the way in which we provide accommodation facilities for the aged in the community. We must in providing them realise that the people who go into these homes should continue to be independent and to exercise independent rights as individuals in our society.

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