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Developmental Delay Packages

Estimates & Committees
Rachel Siewert 24 Feb 2011

Community Affairs 24 February 2011

Senator SIEWERT—Do I ask about the developmental delay packages here or should I have asked it before? We ran out of time before.

Ms S Wilson—The developmental delay packages are in this outcome. My colleagues will have to come to the table to answer those questions.

Senator SIEWERT—I am going to go through these quickly, because I know I am going to get pinged shortly. We talked about it last estimates. As I understand it, you said that you were working on it and basically I would like to know where we are at, because they are due to come on line next financial year.

Ms Winkler—We are progressing work on the Better Start package. We are on track for our 1 July implementation. We have had a number of consultations with key stakeholders and a range of peak bodies. We started the consultation process back in December. We had some consultation in January and this month as well. We have a range of working groups. We have an interdepartmental working group of relevant agencies. We have an intradepartmental working group to ensure that we have got all the relevant areas that deal with children and families engaged in that process, and we have been meeting with a range of allied health professional associations and a whole range of disability peaks.

Senator SIEWERT—Are the guidelines drafted?

Ms Winkler—We have some draft guidelines in train. They have not yet been to the parliamentary secretary for sign-off. We have a couple of processes that will be in train shortly. We are planning to bring together a group of experts to assist us in determining eligible interventions. Unlike the autism package where we had a better practice guide for autism, we do not have one better practice guide across this range of disabilities, so we are seeking some external expertise to assist us in those processes. We also will need what we are calling a gateway provider—we have not determined a name yet—like in the autism package, where we have autism advisers. We need a point of information and registration for families associated with this package so that children can be registered and then access the range of early intervention services that will be available. We will be undertaking a restricted selection process around that, and then we will be looking to advertise probably around April for early intervention panel providers.

Senator SIEWERT—Are the draft guidelines going to go out for some comment as well?

Ms Winkler—Basically the guidelines will be very similar in terms of the access provisions, as they are in the autism space. It is the same up to a maximum of $12,000 or up to $6,000 within any financial year, up to that maximum. The parameters, except that it is a different disability cohort, are basically the same. We have autism associations providing the gateway for that cohort, but this is a broader group of disabilities and that is not necessarily the natural path for people to go to seek information.

Senator SIEWERT—Do you have a set of criteria for how you select the people that are going to provide—

Ms Winkler—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—I appreciate the issue. How are you going to pick the people that do that?

Ms Winkler—We will undertake a selection process and we will have some standard criteria to do that.

Senator SIEWERT—April is the time line for providers. What is the time line for picking the gateway?

Ms Winkler—The time frame for picking the gateway provider is very shortly.

Senator SIEWERT—As in this month?

Senator McLucas—I have to make a decision.

Senator SIEWERT—So I should ask in May? Is that the point you are making?

Senator McLucas—It is not a straightforward model and we have to work it out so we do the right thing for these families.

Senator SIEWERT—I appreciate that. I have some questions about the autism package, but I will put them on notice because I would like to cover other areas and I will run out of time. I would like to ask about mental health carers. I asked previously about funding for the scoping study and funding for a peak body for mental health carers. I understand there have been some ongoing discussions around that issue. There was a scoping study in 2009 for looking at a separate mental health carers peak body.

Dr Harmer—I would have to take that on notice. I do not think that anyone at the table is aware of where that is at.

Senator SIEWERT—If you could take on notice where that is at and whether there has been any further consideration given to funding for a peak body for mental health carers, that would be appreciated.

Dr Harmer—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—Can I ask about Australian Disability Enterprises?

CHAIR—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—I am not going to traverse the issues that we talked about last week at the inquiry. I will zip through these and I may put more on notice. What progress has there been in the price review? I understand that it is currently being undertaken or has been undertaken.

Dr Hartland—Yes, it is underway. We are working with the consultant to finalise the methodology broadly, and we anticipate having it finished midyear.

Senator SIEWERT—Do I take it that the consultant is on board working out how to do it and then it will be undertaken?

Dr Hartland—Yes, that is right.

Senator SIEWERT—I presume there will be consultation with the various stakeholders during that review?

Dr Hartland—Yes. We have a reference group that we have established to assist the consultant.

Senator SIEWERT—Will the methodology for the review be released publicly?

Dr Hartland—That would be a decision for the government when it receives the final report. We have not come to that point about publishing.

Senator SIEWERT—So you are not going to release the methodology for the review prior to the review being undertaken?

Dr Hartland—No. We are not intending to do that.

Senator SIEWERT—But it is being discussed in the reference group?

Dr Hartland—It is being discussed in the reference group, yes.

Senator SIEWERT—Thank you, and I know to ask the government for a copy of the review once it is released. I understand that there has been discussion on development of the 10-year vision and in fact a commitment to that. I am wondering about progress on that. I know it has been undertaken, because I know there are documents out.

Ms Angus—A number of steps have been taken with the vision process, as you said. There has been a paper released and circulated quite broadly amongst stakeholders and beyond. An advisory group has been established and has actually met a couple of times, made up of a number of stakeholder group representatives. It is due to meet again and will bring a report to government with some recommendations mid-year. There were consultations. A consultant was contracted and consultations took place at the end of last year. Submissions were called for in response to the paper. We received a high number of written submissions— more than 600—from a variety of stakeholders. A large proportion—I think around 80 per cent—in fact was from supported employees themselves. It was a very good response. We were very pleased. We are working through to analyse that. That information will be fed into the advisory group process to form part of their conversations.

Senator SIEWERT—As to the issue around indexation, I know that I cannot ask what is going to be in the budget, but I am presuming that you have heard from a whole range of organisations that the decision that was made last year was difficult. As I understand it, they appreciate that the department found some additional money. I presume you have heard—

Senator McLucas—We are very alive to that question.

Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. We will be following that one up. Lastly I turn to the issue of special disability trusts. As to the amount of money that somebody can spend in any year, has the issue of indexation been considered?

Dr Hartland—I think we undertook to reconsider the issue of indexation of one component of the trust when the government made its response to the Community Affairs References Committee. We have not done that bit yet, but we did agree to index another component. As I understand it, that is contained in the bill that is now before the Senate.

Ms Rose—It is not in the bill but it may be in some guidelines that followed the bill.

Senator SIEWERT—I stand corrected. But it is in the guidelines to follow?

Ms Rose—It is anticipated that it will be.

Senator SIEWERT—When are the guidelines going to be—

Ms Rose—When the bill is published and the guidelines that drill into the details of how—

Senator McLucas—It is regulation rather than legislation.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes, but we have been uphill and down dale on this argument about legislation versus regulation. You do not always have to wait for the bill to be passed to in fact—

Senator McLucas—Introduce that reg.

Senator SIEWERT—introduce the reg or in fact be working on the reg. Has that work commenced yet, on
developing the regulation?

Ms Rose—We are doing very preliminary work.

Dr Harmer—It is in the early stages.

Senator SIEWERT—So watch this space.

Senator McLucas—It is something that people have made strong representations about.

Senator SIEWERT—If the same people who have been talking to you have been talking to me—

Senator McLucas—They will be in Western Australia.

Senator SIEWERT—The other issue is property transfer. There is still the issue of people who have bought a property for their son or daughter, trying to do the right thing, to look after them, and who are now having difficulties with basically transferring it, and the impact that is having then on their pension.

Senator McLucas—That is a bigger and harder question to deal with than the indexation question. It is under consideration, but I cannot be any more positive than that. There are a considerable number of consequences of adopting something like that.

Senator SIEWERT—I understand that, but presuming that people start taking up the trust et cetera there may be a finite number of people who have in fact already bought a property to put in it and they then want to transfer it. Do you have an idea of how many people and how many properties we are talking about?

Dr Harmer—I do not believe we do have that information.

Ms S Wilson—Can we take that on notice. I do not believe we have that information.

Senator SIEWERT—I appreciate it may be difficult, but I am also thinking there could be various ways you could do it. You could have it open for a period of time so that people who have already bought these properties are able to transfer it within a certain period, and then after that you could have a cut-off—or something like that. There are various options. That was off the top of my head. Have you looked at the various options that could forestall some of the issues that are associated with it?

Senator McLucas—Can I say that we have been working, with Ms Moylan in the first instance and a number of people, about a list of amendments that I know this committee has had a strong interest in over a long time. We are going through the challenges that each of these proposals might bring to us. We have to be very mindful about precedent setting. We have to be mindful about how this interfaces with a whole range of other systems, including tax law and including impacts on pensions. You do not want to end up with a system that is so intricate and difficult to manage that we will in fact end up with fewer people in it. In principle, the trusts are a good idea. They are a very difficult instrument to use.

Senator SIEWERT—I understand that. I also understand that there is only a certain group of people— there are a lot of people—that cannot afford to do this. I understand that, but there is a group of people who are very keen to use this mechanism.

Senator McLucas—We are very mindful of their motivation, and we will do what we can to facilitate a positive outcome for those families.

 

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