Home and Community Care Program Funding
The Hon. JAN BURNSWOODS: I address my question to the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services. What support is the Iemma Government providing for frail older people and people with a disability to help them to live independently in their own communities?
The Hon. JOHN DELLA BOSCA: The honourable member has asked a timely question. I am pleased to advise the House that funding for the Home and Community Care Program in New South Wales for 2006-07 has been approved. This will result in $31.4 million in additional funding to help frail older people, and younger people with a disability and their carers. This additional funding brings total Home and Community Care funding in New South Wales to over $475 million this financial year, an increase of over 7 per cent. More than $15 million will be released immediately to 298 Home and Community Care services in New South Wales. Under the 2006-07 Home and Community Care Plan an additional $3.4 million has been allocated for social support to provide practical help through friendly visits, and help with letters, paying bills, shopping and attending appointments.
Additional funding of almost $3 million in community transport will help to maintain quality of life through transport to shops and appointments, and group transport to social events. The nearly $2 million allocated for centre-based day care will provide assistance for people to attend and participate in group activities in a centre-based setting as well as group excursions. Respite will be expanded by more than $1 million. Respite provides much needed relief or substitute care so that a carer gets a break from his or her usual role. We will also extend home maintenance services, which provide garden and yard help, to keep homes in a safe and habitable condition. That includes minor repairs, electrical and plumbing work, lawn mowing, garden tidying and rubbish removal. The Home and Care Community Care Program provides practical help to vulnerable people in the community.
I take this opportunity to commend my Federal counterpart Santo Santoro on approving this year's Home and Community Care State Plan in record time. It is refreshing to have dealings with a Federal Minister whose sense of co-operation and collaboration is motivated by a desire to improve services for the most vulnerable in the community. Unfortunately that was far from the case with his predecessor, Julie Bishop. Ms Bishop's overriding motivation was to delay funding and criticise the States, and as a result exploit vulnerable people. This is also a style used by the New South Wales Opposition. The shadow minister is expert at using people with a disability for his own selfish political point scoring. He cries crocodile tears but has no plan.
As well as the additional Home and Community Care funding, the Iemma Government will spend an extra $1.3 billion over the next five years as part of the Stronger Together disability plan. This is an historic increase in disability funding, which will provide more respite care, more supported accommodation, more in-home assistance and more therapy—real help, practical help for the most vulnerable in the community. This is in stark contrast to the New South Wales Opposition. Mr Debnam will not commit to spend this extra funding if elected next year. He has failed to support the New South Wales Government's bid for extra disability funding from the Commonwealth and promises a meagre 5 per cent of the Iemma Government's $1.3 billion plan. He clearly does not understand the needs of people with a disability, the frail aged and their families and is not prepared to stand up for them.
At the last election the Opposition promised to fund its unreal and impractical promises by stripping the community services sector by $700 million. A vote for Mr Debnam and the New South Wales Opposition is a big risk for frail older people, people with a disability, their families and carers.