As you might imagine, my office receives an incredible amount of phone calls, email messages and letters each week. In addition to local traffic much of it comes from keyboard warriors across the nation pushing their pet policy agenda. Technology has made it easy to do so: they simply submit their name and postcode on the advocacy group’s website and the group pressing the issue sends their letter to your local MP. They even write it for you.
The great bulk of correspondence to my office comes from local people with local problems and the most common issues are visas, telecommunications, taxation, family law, and Centrelink problems.
But lately, the two issues which keep us busiest are aged care and NDIS issues. This is in part why I hold regular forums for seniors and NDIS. We are blessed to have many quality not-for-profit local aged care providers. But they can only be as good as they are resourced by government and clearly in recent years, that resourcing has not been sufficient. The Productivity Commission tells us that seniors looking for a place in an aged care facility are now waiting nine months or more for a place. That’s a 300 per cent increase on the average 40-day wait in 2013.
The situation is no better for those hoping to remain in their own home with the assistance of Government-funded Aged Care Packages. Tragically, in the past two years 30,000 elderly Australians died while waiting for a package. In November, the aged care royal commission’s interim report described the aged care system in Australia as a “shocking tale of neglect”. It called for urgent action including more home care packages to reduce the 120,000-long waiting list, an urgent response to the significant overreliance on chemical restraints in aged care homes, and the removal of young people with disability from aged care facilities.
There can be no higher responsibility for government than the proper care of our elderly and the disabled. The NDIS remains a wonderful project offering greater levels of support, flexibility and independence than did the old state-based system. Transitioning hundreds of thousands of people across from the old system while accommodating new entrants was always going to be difficult. But to become one of the main reasons for complaint to the offices of MPs is a disappointing achievement for any government.
Experience tells me that for every person frustrated enough to contact my office, there are another three reluctant to do so. If you have a problem you believe I may be able to help with, please do not hesitate to make contact. We not only want to assist where we can, but your representations help me keep my finger on the pulse of the problems.
I welcome the NSW Government’s back-down on its decision to refuse Veterans ad War Widows access to its Regional Seniors Travel Card. Well done to Clayton Barr and others who have been pressing the case on behalf of those who have served and their families.