Ms CLOVER MOORE (Bligh) [5.56 p.m.]: Tonight I congratulate the Redfern and Inner City Home Support Service [RICHSS] for its work with isolated and disadvantaged residents in the inner city. RICHSS started because of the caring efforts of a group of public housing tenants who found that many residents in the Redfern and Waterloo Department of Housing estates needed personal support to stay living at home and in their community. The service began 16 years ago with one co-ordinator and a few volunteers providing support to public housing tenants in Redfern and Waterloo. It has now expanded to service the entire City of Sydney local government area, with more than 200 clients in both public and private housing and a team of nine employees and 50 volunteers.
The Redfern and Inner City Home Support Service plays an important role in improving the lives of inner city residents. Its goal is to "break down isolation and to support people who live alone and need assistance to remain independently in their own home for as long as possible." Volunteers and support workers help isolated, frail and aged people, people with mild dementia, people with disabilities and clients' carers. At a time when the Government is encouraging residents to look out and care for their neighbours following a number of tragic deaths of isolated elderly people, this program goes right to the heart of good neighbourliness. Volunteers and support workers make regular home visits, helping clients with a wide variety of tasks such as shopping, paying bills and banking and accompanying them on walks, social outings and to appointments. RICHSS also provides advocacy and respite services.
A study called "Who Cares?", which was undertaken by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling and AMP, estimated that 750,000 women are caring for children and a disabled or aged person at the same time. These figures show the importance of services such as RICHSS and the number of people who need this sort of assistance. Liz Christey, the service co-ordinator, told me of one elderly client who suffered a stroke in her home. The RICHSS staff member who regularly visited her discovered her and got her immediate medical attention. That happened during the same period as the tragic deaths of other elderly residents in Sydney and was a positive contrast to those sad stories. Another example is of a young man who suffered a severe stroke. Thanks to the ongoing support provided by RICHSS and other community services, he has regained his confidence and lives independently in the community.
Liz and the other hardworking staff and volunteers have countless positive stories such as these. In September 2004, RICHSS obtained extra funding for its outreach project, which employs three workers who identify isolated and lonely people who will benefit from RICHSS's help. The outreach workers recruit volunteers, organise activity groups such as a cinema group and book club, and co-ordinate an outreach volunteer telephone service whose volunteers call more than 45 clients every fortnight. I have heard positive reports about this new service from community members who were worried about a neighbour who lives alone without other support.
Along with many other non-government human services organisations, RICHSS will be required to pay increased wages under the Social and Community Services (SACS) Award from July this year. I have asked the Government to ensure that Government funding is increased to cover these increased costs so that these vital services are not cut. The Macquarie University Sociology Department is evaluating the new outreach project, which involves a program of workshops with RICHSS staff and the Department of Ageing, Disability and Health Care, and I look forward to its report. There is a great need for more aged care support services in the inner city with its increasing ageing population. RICHSS staff hope to see expanded aged care services, including support offices in major Department of Housing buildings and more support workers who speak other languages to aid the growing number of clients from non-English speaking backgrounds. I call on the Government to increase funding to cover these important services.
I have worked with inner city Department of Housing communities for many years and I hold regular public meetings for tenants where they can discuss their concerns and get action from the police, the Department of Housing, the council and other agencies. From these meetings, and from doorknocking bleak, high-rise estates in Bligh, I am very aware that severe isolation, loneliness and lack of access to services and facilities are common problems for frail aged people and those with disabilities. Redfern Inner City Home Support Service helps these residents to stay in their own homes and out of institutions, and I congratulate the staff for their efforts, which are essential to strong communities.