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Tuesday, 19 September 1972
Page: 916

Senator GREENWOOD (VictoriaAttorneyGeneral) - I move:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this Bill is to put into effect the announcement in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) of 15th August that the rate of personal care subsidy payable under the. Aged Persons Homes Act would be doubled. This was only one of a number of aged persons welfare measures contained in the Budget. Overall, these measures should provide a balanced and comprehensive programme of assistance for the aged, particularly those who, because of illness or advancing years, are unable to fend for themselves as well as they once could. I am sure all honourable senators will agree that these people. by their past contribution to the development of this country, have earned the special considerations provided in the Budget.

The doubling of the rate of personal care subsidy together with the implementation of a special 3 year crash programme to stimulate the provision of more hostel-type accommodation should correct a pressing shortage of suitable accommodation for the frail aged. I did amplify this when introducing the special hostels legislation.

Most honourable senators will be fully conversant with the $2 for $1 capital subsidy which is available under the Aged Persons Homes Act to religious and other non-profit organisations and local governing bodies wishing to establish homes for the aged. However, not all may be so familiar with details of the personal care subsidy paid under the same Act. For this reason I will reacquaint them with the purpose of the subsidy so that they may better appreciate the provisions of the Bill presently before them.

Personal care subsidy helps organisations conducting hostels for the aged to meet the cost of personal care services for the residents whose only infirmity is the frailty of advancing years. These persons might otherwise find their way into nursing homes, where the higher cost of maintenance would impose unnecessary financial burdens on their relatives and the Commonwealth. The major consideration is, however, the welfare of the individual. Unnecessary admission to a nursing home curtails unduly a person's activity and scope for normal living. It can be seen, therefore, that personal care subsidy helps to provide a sociologically more acceptable and economic form of accommodation for those in need of sheltered living conditions.

To qualify for the subsidy a home must provide meals and employ sufficient staff to help any residents who need assistance with bathing and dressing, room cleaning, personal laundry and the general oversight of their medication. In addition a staff member must be on hand at all times in case of emergency. Subsidy is presently calculated at the rate of $5 for each resident aged 80 years and over residing in an approved hostel. The subsidy, therefore, provides an incentive for organisations to allocate accommodation to the upper age group. However, a condition' of approval is that the personal care services must be provided for any aged resident in need of such services whether he has attained 80 years of age or not.

Response to the introduction of the subsidy in 1969 has been very good. It has led to many organisations introducing personal care services into their homes. In fact the subsidy is now paid to 360 homes providing hostel-type accommodation for about 16,000 aged persons. Of these residents almost 7,000 are aged 80 or over. Expenditure on the subsidy is currently running at the rate of $2m per year.

Increases in staff wages and other costs since 1969 have lessened the purchasing power of the subsidy. The Bill now before the Senate provides for the rate of payment to be increased from $5 to $10 per week and for the increase to take effect from the first payday after the legislation receives royal assent. The increase will, of course, more than compensate for rises in costs since 1969 and will increase considerably the incentive for organisations to expand the services that they provide for the aged residents of their hostels.

Most residents of these non-profit hostel type homes will soon be receiving a pension of $20 per week . plus $4 per week supplementary assistance. In addition the home will receive SIO per week for all over 80. Since about 45 per cent of such residents fall into this upper age group, the average subsidy will be about $4.50 per week per resident. This gives a total available from the Government of about $28.50 per resident per week, which should be enough to provide for running expenses and leave a reasonable spending margin for pensioners.

This increase in subsidy will cost an extra $1.3m in 1972-73 and approximately $2m in the first full year. Expenditure in 1972-73 on the subsidy will therefore total about $3. 2m and more than $4m in the following year. However, there figures are expected to be increased substantially as the provision of hostel accommodation accelerates under the Government's proposed 3-year crash programme.

As I mentioned earlier, this Bill is but one of a number of measures being introduced by the Government to improve the health and welfare of the aged in our community. This Bill makes a significant contribution to the welfare programme. I commend the Bill to the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.

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