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Tuesday, 25 September 1973
Page: 1495

Mr BENNETT (Swan) - In referring to these 3 Bills in the cognate debate - the Aged Persons Homes Bill, the States Grants (Home Care) Bill and the Delievered Meals Subsidy Bill - one finds that very many problems experienced by our aged community have been looked at. One wonders what happened to people before the introduction of this type of legislation. Is it a fact that people are living longer or is it a fact that the young people of today are reluctant to care for their own aged relatives, preferring to institutionalise them, to put them out of sight and out of mind only to be thought of and visited on special anniversaries? We all hope this is not so. However, this type of legislation indicates an overall increase in the standard of living of retired people, that they are continuing as active members of the community, and that they highlight through their organisations to those in authority the need to give more attention to their section of the community. Even though the benefits enacted in this legislation are generous, they cannot attempt to solve all the problems with which the aged community are faced.

Let us look at the question of meals on wheels. I often wonder whether it would not be better if this service were to become an extension of hospital services. Whilst I do not decry the tremendous amount of work done by the voluntary bodies, very often there arises a duplication of kitchens in the one area, with one at the local hospital and one at the meals on wheels centre, while in an adjacent shire no meals are delivered at all and will not be until some civic-minded group decides to commence an operation in that area. This is not good enough. If we are to have a social welfare service and if the aged are in need in one area, surely that need is reflected in all other areas. Thus it is pleasing to see that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) is carrying out a national survey in this matter. But I feel the facility will become universally available only when Government initiative takes place to ensure delivery to all areas. In the case of services which deliver only meals which are prepared at other centres no subsidy is available, and often it is necessary for the shire councils to meet some of the costs of the service as sufficient volunteers are not always available and employed personnel are required to ensure regular deliveries. In fact in most cases of meals on wheels deliveries, shire councils give their full support. However, I feel it would be preferable if a system could be evolved which would give every person in Australia an equal opportunity to receive the benefits of government subsidies, no matter where they live.

This also applies to home care. The people have to be there in the first instance to render this assistance in order to receive the subsidy, and in these days of full employment and of the working wife there is little to attract people to volunteer based schemes or to other organisations which rely upon employing part time employees. The Minister is to be congratulated on this attempt to make more funds readily accessible to those organisations through the States. The general implementation of the S2 for Si subsidy by the Com monwealth in this area of direct aid is long overdue. No doubt at some future date we will sec senior citizens centres operating as truly viable community aid centres and not as goodwill clubs, which they must all be at the moment. Let us face it; the only real resources available to them are the moneys they themselves raise from their own members, with some operating losses being met from shire and State government sources. I am sure that it is not a lack of desire but a lack of direction and resources that brings about the current situation.

One must remember that in many cases people who use the centres come for brief periods from rest homes or retirement centres. Such accommodation provides somewhere to go for people who have been displaced from the family home, and to ask them to contribute anything but a nominal amount would be asking them for something which was beyond their capacity to pay. To ask those who paid key money, by way of a donation, to enter a settlement still to pay rent would be adding insult to injury. This is an aspect of the matter which, although 1 have been party to it myself, I have never liked. I refer to the charging of rent in advance by way of a donation of $2,000 or $3,000. Depending on the life expectancy of the person, it often works out that the person who has lived at such a home for, say three or four years has been charged up to $20 a week plus a weekly maintenance fee or rent - call it what you will - which in itself is subject to no controls by outside parties.

Even though the Government provides twothirds of the actual cost of buildings by way of direct subsidy or donation, what happens in effect is that some party, whoever it may be, receives capital assets which act as bank collateral on which to operate with no controls. What amazes me is that the shires have not taken more advantage than they have of such a good thing, for where else could one obtain capital buildings donated by the Government and the public, with running costs met out of the pockets of residents and which is. then described by the term 'charitable'? Some organisations pay administrators substantial wages out of available funds. But the amazing thing is that for all the years of the existence of this scheme very few units are now available for rent without entry fee.

It just does not appear to happen that organisations see their way clear to assist people who are unable to raise the entry key donations. This may be for very good reasons, but it certainly enhances the need for the very generous increases provided for in these Bills. People who have been waiting foi State housing commission flats for 5 years oi more and those who have money or assets which take them above the means test for State housing assistance and yet who have insufficient means to pay entry fees must be concerned about who is going to look after them when they reach an age at which they cannot care for themselves. They realise that organisations with cottages must give preference to their cottage residents for hostel type accommodation, for not only do they have a community and a personal obligation to those residents but they also have waiting lists for vacancies occurring in the cottages. So it can be seen that people who are not in the system become rightly concerned as to their future. No doubt, they are somewhat relieved to find a Minister who is prepared to act so quickly and sympathetically.

However, it is useless to introduce legislation such as this if the State authorities, the local government authorities or the voluntary organisations do not take advantage of it. It may well be that these bodies are not aware of all the facilities that are available to them and only on inquiring and following their own initial interest do they find that these benefits exist. With this in mind, I ask the Minister to have prepared a suitable detailed pamphlet outlining all facilities and subsidies available and. more importantly, how to go about implementing them. These could be circulated to State governments. State members of Parliament, local government bodies, members of councils, voluntary organisations and their members and other interested members of the public. If such authorities or persons wish to find out anything now, they require to obtain a handful of pamphlets which make very dull reading if one is not interested in particular items. This may be the reason for the scarcity of welfare workers in Western Australia. I was appalled to find that the subsidy claimed by local government Authorities in Western Australia for welfare workers was only S5.475 for the period from 1 July 1969 to 30 June 1973 and for home care aid for the same period $26,000. This might account for the situation in my electorate of a home being sold up while the gentleman who occupied it was in hospital - he is now in a C class hospital - or another case of a home being sold up around a gentleman while his wife was in hospital and committed to a socalled C class hospital. These are the things that happen. If home care were readily available or if people knew how to go about getting assistance that is available to them, it could well be said that these personal tragedies would not happen. I commend the amendments.

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