Wednesday 24 June 2009

Estimates Committee B (Thorp) - Part 2

3.3 Disability services


Mr FINCH - Minister, I want to get on to the subject of the Community Equipment Scheme.  As you know, the Joint Standing Committee on Community Development found that the provision of assisted technology to people with disabilities is in disarray, is underfunded and is in need of major reform.  Could you outline what steps the State Government is taking to implement the recommendations of the committee? I know there has been an initial response but we need a bit of detail.  This is a big problem for tens of thousands of Tasmanians. 

Ms THORP - I have a bit of information here I would like to share if I could.  The role of the Community Equipment Scheme is to provide funding for aids and appliances, as we know, to eligible Tasmanians to enhance their quality of life and to facilitate discharge from hospital.  Human Services’ individual support program-that is, through the individual funding unit-provides recurrent personal support and/or respite through individualised support packages.  From time to time the funds in the IFU may also have the capacity to allocate funding on a one-off basis for personal support or respite or to provide assistance with the purchase of essential equipment or home modification.  So that is two ports.  The Community Equipment Scheme would also be use of funds through an individual support program.  A committee-you are a member of that; that was Community Development, wasn't it?

Mr FINCH - I am the chair of it.

Ms THORP - That is right.  There are a lot of select committees around sometimes.  There were 18 recommendations.  We have established a steering committee that is going to be co-chaired by Alison Jacob and also Sue Hodgson, who is the chair of that disability advisory committee I mentioned earlier.  They are going to oversee the work to be done in response to the report.  The steering committee will have an operation group and a cross-jurisdictional policy group to address the recommendations.  The operational group has already begun work on the review of the Community Equipment Scheme through the development of an inventory management work plan.  The work plan will bring changes to the administration, warehousing, distribution and retrieval processes of the Community Equipment Scheme and, in addition, a centralised database will also enable facts and figures to be captured accurately so they can inform larger scale work and help us plan a way forward.  An interim report on the progress of this work will regularly be provided to me through the steering committee, and I am happy to undertake to make sure that that information goes back to Community Development on a regular basis.

Mr FINCH - Yes, and of course communicated back out to the providers-

Ms THORP - Absolutely.

Mr FINCH - and people who are the applicants.

Ms THORP - Absolutely.  In terms of having the steering committee chaired by Sue Hodgson, who is quite a significant member of the community when it comes to the disability area, she will be making sure that information gets out there.  Believe me, whenever I meet with the disability advisory committee I do not think a meeting goes by where the Community Equipment Scheme is not right up there.  Alison has just reminded me, quite rightly too, that this is something we are not going to fix overnight.  But I just thought you would like to know that there are only limited waiting lists for equipment in the south and the north and no waiting list in the north-west for equipment.

CHAIR - So obviously that select committee report has already made progress.

Ms THORP - I think it was a really significant piece of work the committee did, because people have been aware I think for a long time of the issues involved with the Community Equipment Scheme.  But it has just been one of those issues where you have to say, 'This is such a big mucky problem, how on earth do we tackle it?'  The direction provided by the committee has been really helpful in that regard.