Community Affairs - Basics Cards 02/06/2011
Senator SIEWERT: We did touch on this somewhat yesterday, but I thought it was more appropriate to ask most of the questions here. How quickly will you be able to roll out the BasicsCard infrastructure in these areas?
Mr Tidswell: We have had experience as you all know in doing this. We will be establishing a project plan as we speak, working that through to the implementation date of July 2012. My sense would be this will be a little easier in some respects than in a remote community setting in terms of the ability to engage with providers and ensure that we put up the capability and look at all of the other things we have done in terms of kiosks, support, training and so on. We have a good lead time. We are confident. We know what we have to do. It is a big job but we will get there.
Senator SIEWERT: Will you be doing the same thing that you are doing in some of the other communities about being able to access your balance, when you are talking about your kiosks?
Mr Tidswell: Yes, exactly.
Senator SIEWERT: Will you have them in easily accessible areas?
Mr Tidswell: I think we have plans for 20-odd kiosks. We are planning and thinking about where they will go and how we will position those exactly for that purpose.
Ms Ramsey: We currently have just over 4,700 merchants already in the system spread throughout Australia, and Coles and Woolworths are now registered nationally. We have got a good start. But we have 12 months and staff will be employed within the next several months to start working with third-party organisations and merchants to make sure that in the five sites we have a decent number of merchants going and it grows over time.
In terms of the balance, we are using the same mechanisms, as Mr Tidswell said, with 20 extra kiosks that will be in major shopping centres. Again, as we move through the system we are getting better at being able to provide balances for customers.
Senator SIEWERT: You have IGA on board too, haven’t you?
Ms Ramsey: Yes, IGA as well.
Senator SIEWERT: Will they be rolled out in those locations as well?
Ms Ramsey: We are working on that nationally, but we will be focusing on those five locations as a priority.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I go back to the community innovation fund. I understand that the process has not been finalised, but will that be open for community organisations to apply for?
Mr Sandison: No, not that it will not be but there is no decision. One of the issues is with each of those 10 locations it is getting back to the basics, trying to do it from the ground up rather than us making determinations about the best way to do it. We will try to make it that it is a local advisory group that understands the local issues. They would work out potentially and provide suggestions of the best way for the funding to be allocated. If that were done by a grants round that might be a suggestion. If that were done by a decision of an advisory group suggesting something then there is no need for grant round. We did not want to assume a mechanism.
Senator SIEWERT: I apologise, I did not mean to suggest that it would necessarily be a grants round. The point there is that it would be up to the community to decide.
Mr Sandison: There will be guidelines done of course to make sure there is an appropriate focus, because it is in line with the package that the government has decided. But within that there will be a set of guidelines and then advice from that advisory group.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of that process, do I understand that the 10 Commonwealth coordinators are the coordinators across the whole of the trial site?
Mr Sandison: The aim is that they will be that key contact point. Obviously each department has a range of initiatives and we would be accountable for them. But in terms of trying to bring together a Commonwealth focus and to deal with issues on behalf of organisations where there might be problems in terms of the red tape, understanding some of the bureaucracy or the issues, that is the person who is the go-to point to work through things. That gives the responsibility then to say that the Commonwealth has a single point of contact when needed, but we do not want to overuse that where you have to go through it, given there are a lot of other organisations in there.
Senator SIEWERT: I am sorry to harp on this, but I really want to clearly understand it. They will be the contact in DHS—
Mr Sandison: DHS, yes.
Senator SIEWERT: whom the other agencies will coordinate with that position?
Mr Sandison: Correct.
Senator SIEWERT: The community facilitators will be part of that coordination with that team but will work with the community?
Mr Sandison: They will be employed by and be in the community. In a community organisation, in the third sector. There might already be somebody serving that purpose in some of those community for children sites or similar. They would work together so that we actually have a community organisation. Often the discussion has been that they do not have time from frontline work to be involved in trying to look at the systemic issues in an area. This is the opportunity to make sure that somebody is actually devoted to that purpose.
Senator SIEWERT: I am the community facilitator and I identify that something is not working with this particular approach, people are having a hard time at Centrelink, people are having a hard time with some other barrier, the community facilitator can then talk about that? Or if people from the community are bringing that to me, I can then raise that in the advisory forum?
Mr Sandison: A combination. We would expect in a day-to-day stuff to actually raise it with the Commonwealth coordinator. If it were a DEEWR program, a FaHCSIA program, obviously we would hope that the first port of call would be to discuss it with them, but raise it with the Commonwealth coordinator and also the local advisory group. The issue is to make sure that as soon as things arise there can be a response so that it can be raised and a consideration can be made. Obviously if things escalate or there are bigger issues, one of the main points is to try and find leverage to change the way things work for that local area, because most systems are built
for state based or Commonwealth overview. It is about trying to find the local solutions. That is why it was linked to the innovation fund as well.
Senator SIEWERT: Can I ask a few questions about the DSP initiatives. Is the Health Professional Advice Unit in Centrelink a new initiative?
Ms Beath: It has been in place for a little while now. It was brought in to assist Centrelink staff and JobSearch staff and doctors with complications in some of the assessments they have to look at.
Senator SIEWERT: I thought there was new funding. I am sorry, I have so many bits of paper here.
Ms Beath: There has been some additional funding in the budget to do a series of audits of new DSP claims and to have a detailed look at about one per cent, or 1,600, new claims. That was what the additional funding in this current budget was for.
Senator SIEWERT: I am sorry, could you just say that again?
Ms Beath: It is to look at 1,600 new claims.
Senator SIEWERT: How does that work?
Ms Beath: There will be a sampling approach to some of the new claims. What they are really looking for is are there any issues in those new claims particularly related to medical and other assessments?
Senator SIEWERT: I am sorry, I am having trouble understanding the point. It is to verifying whether the claims are—
Ms Beath: It is to look for any ways we can improve, particularly as we roll out some of the new assessments. It is to look at the way that people are perhaps interpreting some medical evidence. Is there anything more that we could have done? It is working in partnership with the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
Senator SIEWERT: When you say ‘looking at the claims’, is it to see if they should not have been approved?
Ms Beath: Not so much that. It is more about the quality and how the medical assessments are assessed.
Senator SIEWERT: Do we have a similar sort of review of job capacity assessments?
Ms Beath: There are quality assurance processes currently with job capacity assessments.
Senator SIEWERT: Is this a quality assurance process?
Ms Beath: Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: Is there funding for 1,600 new ones?
Ms Beath: Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: What was the old figure?
Ms Beath: It is part of the existing role of the HPAU to do some of this work, so it is a redirection of their work towards these audits.
Senator SIEWERT: They were not doing them before?
Ms Beath: No.
Senator SIEWERT: What is the ultimate outcome that you envisage?
Ms Beath: We are working with FaHCSIA. This is about quality assurance. It may be to improve process, but it may also be that if we come across some policy or other issues that may need to be reflected back to the policy department.
Senator SIEWERT: Does that mean in case the new impairment tables are not functioning?
Ms Beath: That will be rolled out over a similar time frame. That could be something that came up when they did their quality assurance, but it may not.
Senator SIEWERT: Is it 1,600 for next year?
Ms Beath: No, it is from 1 July 2012 to 20 June 2013. That is the time frame to do those.
Senator SIEWERT: So, it is 12 months?
Ms Beath: Yes.
Senator SIEWERT: I just got the 12-month period wrong. Then is it to be assessed again or is it just a one-off?
Ms Beath: At this stage it is a one-off, but FaHCSIA will consider the outcomes.
Senator SIEWERT: In terms of disability, are you able to tell me about numbers?
Ms Beath: I think we have some data. FaHCSIA provided quite a bit of data earlier today on those numbers. We have those same numbers.
Senator SIEWERT: So, you do not have the new ones. I will not ask for them. In terms of how the new under-35 process will work, I just want to clarify this a bit more. I know we went through it a bit in DEEWR. Everybody is going to be interviewed again in the new under-35 process, who are already on DSP. I am a bit unclear still whether they are all going to be interviewed. They are all going to be interviewed again, are they not? They will all come in for interviews?
Ms Lond: Not all of the DSP customers under age 35 will need to be interviewed. There are a number of exclusions for people with very severe disabilities and people who have variable work capacity. Also some customers who are employed in Australian Disability Enterprises and under the supported wage system will not be impacted.
Senator SIEWERT: But everybody else will be?
Ms Lond: There will be an assessment by Centrelink as to which customers do need to proceed with the participation requirements based on those various criteria.
Senator SIEWERT: Based on those exceptions, that is two exceptions, basically everybody else has to?
Ms Lond: It will be under 35-year-olds who have eight hours or more work capacity, so not the very severe disability cases.
Senator SIEWERT: I will not go through what I asked DEEWR the other day. For all those who have over eight hours capacity, if you are already on DSP you stay on DSP still, do you not?
Ms Lond: Yes, this measure is for DSP customers who have eight hours or more work capacity.
Senator SIEWERT: Yes, but in future new people will not be going on DSP if they have eight hours? They will be going on to Newstart, will they not? I still do not have it clear in my head.
Ms Golightly: Not necessarily. It will depend on the assessment against things like the impairment tables and their work capacity and things like that. It is still an assessment about their eligibility for DSP, the new ones.
Senator SIEWERT: You can see I still have not got this right.
Ms Beath: The changes from September will see the new claimants have to provide more evidence that they have actually tried or been through vocational rehab or had some retraining. Until they have either provided evidence or in some cases been through those programs they will not go on to Disability Support Pension. I do not know if that is what you are after.
Senator SIEWERT: This is where I am struggling. My understanding from the discussion I had with DEEWR was that for new people if you are assessed to have eight hours capacity you do not go on to DSP, you have to go on to Newstart and go through what you have just said. But my understanding from our discussion was that you actually never come off it, because you are just keeping on trying to get employment.
Ms Golightly: I think it is the difference between whether you are applying to go on or whether you are already on DSP. I think that is the difference.
Senator SIEWERT: I want to refine it to just the new people. From what I was told—because I kept trying to find the way you get off—how do you then get assessed for DSP because you just cannot find work or you cannot maintain work? I am finding it really hard to understand where this evidence line is.
Ms Golightly: Could I just clarify when you say ‘how do you get off’?
Senator SIEWERT: Off the cycle is what I am talking about.
Ms Golightly: I thought you meant off DSP, I am sorry.
Senator SIEWERT: It would be wonderful if we could get people off DSP and off Newstart and into jobs, but when you have greater than eight hours capacity that is—
Ms Golightly: My understanding is that for new people they are still assessed against the impairment tables and all their medical evidence and all the normal things, but if they are assessed to have eight hours capacity then they will need also to show that they have evidence that they have been through those programs to no avail.
Senator SIEWERT: That is where I want to know where the line is where they go, ‘Okay. We have put you through the wringer.’
Ms Golightly: If they can show that they have been through the appropriate support, that gets taken into account in the new assessment.
Senator SIEWERT: What do you mean by the ‘appropriate support’, sorry?
Ms Golightly: This is—
Senator SIEWERT: Do you mean the adjoining pathways and all that sort of thing?
Ms Beath: This work is being undertaken with FaHCSIA and DEEWR at the moment to actually crystallise what that evidence is and how we, in Centrelink, will be able to assess the new rounds.
Ms Campbell: FaHCSIA and DEEWR would probably have a much greater ability to answer them than we will—
Senator SIEWERT: They told me to come to you.
Ms Campbell: Once we are able to finalise the policy we will work out how we are going to implement it, but we will continue to work with DEEWR and FaHCSIA on these types of issues.
Senator SIEWERT: Is there an end point? What I understood from DEEWR was that you just keep trying and you just keep trying.
Ms Campbell: DEEWR is in the best place to talk to the committee about the policy implementation. We are the best people to talk about how once those policies are finalised we will implement that policy.
Senator SIEWERT: I will put some more questions on notice for DEEWR then.
Senator BOYCE: It is concerning though that a system that users already find very opaque appears to be going to become even more opaque and complicated.
Senator SIEWERT: I understand what you are trying to do. I just disagree with how you are doing it. But all this time they are on the lower payment on Newstart and those that have a fairly low capacity to work I am not convinced are going to find it easier to get work, even with all the new programs, particularly at the beginning. I understand all the new support programs that are going in. I suppose I just sceptical that they are not going to overcome those barriers very quickly.
Senator Arbib: I think the right course is, as you said, to put those questions on notice to DEEWR, because they are policy questions.
Senator SIEWERT: They did not answer them the other day.