Disability Care Hub

13th August 2015

Mr GREG PIPER: My question is directed to the Minister for Family and Community Services, representing the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services. Given concern that non-government organisations lack capacity to provide adequate care in the community for people with the most profound developmental disabilities, will the Government reconsider withdrawing from provision of State-operated residential care and consider a plan such as that put forward by Stockton Centre supporters for the creation of a disability care hub?

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank the member for Lake Macquarie for his question and for his interest in people with disabilities, but, more significantly, for all people with vulnerabilities who require us as a community to support them and find the best way forward to provide that support. Last night the member for Lake Macquarie joined me at Tom Uren Place, working on a new pop-up for Family and Community Services and housing.

Mr Greg Piper: Congratulations on that, too.

Mr BRAD HAZZARD: I thank the member for Lake Macquarie. A lot of good work is being done by officers from Family and Community Services to try to reach out to homeless people, rather than having homeless people come to them. I understand the member's concerns. Among the group of people who make up the Government today—even when in opposition—there is a high level of concern about how best to support people with disabilities. I recollect over the years a number of shadow Ministers working extensively in this area; in fact, the member for Bega was driving a lot of work, both in opposition and in government, to ensure that individuals with disability receive a support package, rather than being effectively forced to take what the Government was handing out. He really drove in New South Wales the idea that each of those individuals should be given a financial package and allowed to choose the services that they need. That choice is very important because it led to the concept of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Of course, the National Disability Insurance Scheme—when finally it is completely operational, in 2018—will have about $6.4 billion to spend in that area. About $2.7 billion is currently being spent to support people with disabilities, but that funding will increase to $6.4 billion under a partnership between the Commonwealth and the State Government. There is no question that there is a high level of bona fides on this side of the House in trying to support that concept. At the same time, we also recognise that the argument about individuals remaining in the community is important. The United Nations Convention on People with Disability has indicated that it is far better to have these people living in the community as individuals and making choices for themselves. That is what is driving the review and the work that is being done by my friend in the upper House the Hon. John Ajaka. He is doing a lot of good work, meeting with the community and trying to satisfy their concerns.

In the area that the member mentioned, Stockton, there are three large residential centres: at Kanangra, Tomaree and Stockton. Throughout the whole of New South Wales the number of people living in large residential centres is down to about 700. The Government and I appreciate, as I am sure even the Opposition would, the sensitivities of parents whose children—now not so young in many cases—have been living in large institutions for many, many years. It is a very difficult and sensitive issue, and one on which any government will need to work carefully and sensitively in applying the transition to living in the community. The member referred to the concept of the Stockton disability care hub. The Government assessed that concept. I have read it and understand the drivers for it. I understand that there are arguments from some very concerned parents, as well as from some of the union representatives and people who work there, who are also concerned about their jobs. We understand that.

But, at the end of the day, it is about the individuals. If we believe in what the United Nations has set as our agenda—that is, to have individuals with disability out in the community—then the hub proposal just does not cut it. There have been some renovations at the Stockton Centre, but it is basically a facility that represents the middle of last century—which is not where we should be approaching the middle of this century. So I appreciate the member's interest and his speaking up on behalf of his community, and I appreciate that he has put the proposal forward so the Government can consider it. I can assure the member that the Government has considered it. We understand it is difficult as we move into those transitions plans and try to get the transition completed by 2018. I give the member an assurance that we will work with those families and staff and do everything possible to make sure it is a smooth transition that produces better outcomes for people with disability.

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