House debates

Wednesday, 4 March 2020


Aged Care

7:50 pm

Photo of Pat ConroyPat Conroy (Shortland, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Unfortunately, I am again providing an update to the House on the ongoing crisis in aged care—in this instance, residential home care packages. The provision of both residential and home care for the elderly is important for me as I represent the sixth-oldest electorate in the country. My constituents are suffering because of the total failure of the government to respond to the crisis in aged care.

The issue that I've been familiar with for many years is constituents being granted home care packages but being unable to find a service provider. Recently my office has been contacted by constituents who've been contacted by the company who provides their home, garden and maintenance assistance and were told, because they were oversubscribed, they would no longer be able to provide the service. They have referred them to other services, who are also oversubscribed, which means they are being placed on a waiting list.

These are elderly people, and in many cases vulnerable people, who have relied on a service and, because of the chronic underfunding of CHSP packages—particularly home care and maintenance and domestic assistance packages—are now without a service. Home care and maintenance for these constituents is often lawn mowing. They simply are not in a position to do this job, hence they qualify for the package. Now they have no-one to mow their lawns, and this is causing them considerable distress.

This issue has recently been brought to my attention by Lynn and Doug from Macquarie Hills. I know Doug because he's a veteran and I have met him several times at Cardiff RSL ceremonies. When Doug became unable to do the lawn, Lynn took over. Then, because of her arthritis, she couldn't continue, and they were fortunate to get a level 1 package for home care and maintenance, which covered the lawn mowing. Now this service has been suddenly taken away from them and they are stranded on a waiting list with no-one to do their lawns. Because of Lynn's arthritis and Doug's heart and diabetes issues, they can't mow the lawn, nor should they have to. It's just not right that in a 21st century Australia elderly people who have contributed to our society for decades—in Doug's case, serving in our Defence Force—are not getting basic yet important services which help them to remain at home, or, worse, have them and then have their services unexpectedly stopped.

I also want to raise the issue of the ongoing delays with the granting of home-care packages. John at Eleebana has recently been in contact. John is the carer for his elderly wife, who, sadly, has dementia. John's wife is on a level 1 package but has been approved for a level 3 package, which they have been told by their service provider won't be available until early next year. This will be a wait of two years since she was approved for the level 3 package. John is a very elderly man and has explained the basic assistance he gets from the level 1 package and how exhausted he is attending to all the other caring work, which he should not have to do and wouldn't be doing if they were getting the care under a level 3 package. This is just another shocking example of elderly Australians not being provided the home care they are entitled to. I've written to the minister and asked that urgent extra funding be provided for Commonwealth home support packages for the Hunter region.

These home-care issues are just another example of the government's complete neglect of aged care. Recently it wanted to privatise the ACAT system, which is outrageous. It is literally the only part of the aged-care system that is working, and this government tried to ruin it by privatising it. I applaud the member for Monash, who has called out the government on this shameful attempt to again flog off essential services that are the duty of the state to provide, not the private sector, at a bargain price. No doubt a company with links to the Liberal Party would have been interested in this tender, as is the case with the privatisation of the visa system, which is probably going to go to one of the Prime Minister's good mates, Scott Briggs, who made several large donations to the Liberal Party. This is endemic of the way this government operates. It is a government run by the Liberal Party for the benefit of the Liberal Party and its donors, and the home-care system is another example of it.

The government may, in the next budget, make more announcements about more home-care packages, as they did in the last budget, but, as in that case, it didn't keep up with the growing demand for these packages. Home-care packages provide dignity for elderly Australians. They allow them to remain in their family home, which is important for dignity and comfort in retirement and is cheaper for the taxpayer. But the impact of underfunding and a lack of service providers is having a significant impact on my elderly constituents. Labor and I will continue to hold the government to account for their outrageous neglect of such an important group in our society. We have a compact with elderly Australians. They are entitled to a dignified retirement, a retirement where they are supported by the state. Unfortunately, this government is failing in that obligation.