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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1403

Senator TOWNLEY (TASMANIA) - Yesterday I asked the Minister for Health a question concerning a possible major increase in the bed rate subsidy to assist the running of hostels for retarded children. The Minister for Health was good enough to say that a reply might be forthcoming today. I ask the Minister whether he has been able to obtain the information that I requested.

Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON Yes, I did seek some information to confirm my own thoughts at the time. This is an administrative matter within the area of the Department of Social Services. Nevertheless, I sought background information so that I could avoid the necessity for another question to be asked of the responsible Minister. I have obtained that information for the honourable senator. The Department of Social Services is responsible for the administration of the Handicapped Children's Assistance Act 1970 which is designed to give capital assistance on a $2 for a $1 basis to approved institutions which provide residential accommodation and/ or training for the various kinds of physically and mentally handicapped children. I understand that since the introduction of this Act the Commonwealth has approved expenditure totalling approximately $4m to approved organisations.

The other form of financial assistance provided by the Commonwealth in respect of handicapped children is a benefit of $1.50 a day, which was introduced in January 1969, and which is made under the provisions of the National Health Act for which I am responsible. It is payable in respect of children under 16 years of age who are accommodated and cared for in homes approved under the Act. So the Department of Health had a secondary administrative function. This benefit applies to both the physically and mentally handicapped and is payable to homes conducted by charitable and religious organisations. As at 30th June this year total benefits paid by the Commonwealth under this scheme amounted to some$1. 4m.

The recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare on the physically and mentally handicapped have some bearing on the points raised by the honourable senator, and these recommendations are currently under examination by the Government. Yesterday the honourable senator posed certain questions which related to policy matters, and quite obviously I cannot comment on policy matters at question time.

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