Monday, 14 July 2014
O'Connor Electorate: Respite Care
I rise today in recognition of the great work done by unpaid carers in our communities and the networks that support them. I also take this opportunity to thank Senator Dean Smith and the Minister for Health, the Hon. Peter Dutton, for their assistance in securing ongoing funding for a respite centre in my electorate.
Unpaid carers are a valuable asset to our community. They undertake the care of friends, relatives and loved ones in an act of selflessness which is often unrecognised. Caring can be a 24-hour job that is both physically and emotionally draining. It can be relentless and without respite. Eventually, even the most dedicated carers need a break.
In Albany, we are fortunate to have a purpose-built respite facility attached to the Albany Community Care Centre. It provides both emergency and planned respite accommodation for frail-aged or younger disabled clients and allows carers some welcome time-out to attend to their own health and emotional needs. This five-bed facility has a 95 per cent occupancy rate for most of the year, with four beds dedicated to planned respite care and one reserved for emergency situations.
Unlike many respite centres, the Albany community respite centre was funded under a national partnership agreement with the West Australian state government to provide subacute care initiatives. This three-year funding arrangement expired on 30 June 2014. Most respite centres in Australia are funded under the National Respite for Carers Program, which the government has extended until July 2015. Consequently, the Albany community respite centre found they fell through a gap in funding continuity and were faced with a very real prospect of closure. Up to 13 jobs would have been lost and over 500 families from throughout the Great Southern would have been denied this valuable service.
The respite centre manager, Colleen Tombleson, first alerted me to their predicament in October last year, but matters became urgent in February this year, when it was confirmed there would be no funding beyond 30 June 2014. Senator Dean Smith and I took their cause to both state and federal health ministers. There appeared to be no opportunity for extending their existing NPA funding arrangement, nor for a transfer to the extended National Respite for Carers Program. The WA and federal budgets were handed down and there were no new avenues for funding to pursue. As a result, the respite centre stopped taking bookings and were scheduled to close in the first week of July. Then came the announcement we had all been hoping for: Minister Dutton had secured a one-off funding package through the Chronic Disease Prevention and Service Improvement Fund.
On 3 July, Senator Smith announced to a jubilant collection of carers, clients and staff at the Albany Community Care Centre that the federal government would provide the $370,000 necessary to fund the next 12 months of operations—until the next round of federal funding opens. The grant will provide a total of up to 1,460 bed days of respite care over the next year. This will enable the continuation of the respite centre services, including: chronic disease and palliative care management, care of stable mental health patients, transition of acute hospital care patients to home and community care, and respite care for frail-aged and disability patients, as well as their carers. This has been a great team effort to ensure the continuity of this essential service. (Time expired)