Transcript by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Newcastle 2HD radio with Richard King

Program: 2HD radio

E & OE

KING: Right now joining me is the Federal Minister with responsibility for disability and aged care, we have spoken to him on a number of occasions, Mitch Fifield and he is on the line. Good morning Mitch.

FIFIELD: Good morning Richard.

KING: Thank you for your time. A number of changes that certainly effect older listeners, in respect of our audience, that were announced in the budget last year. The main one being and I must preface it by saying it does not come into effect till February 2017. 73.7 million dollars invested to give older Australians control over aged care services and I gather this is much the same as the way the National Disability Insurance Scheme will be working in that individuals have basically a greater say as to how packages will be implemented for themselves personally?

FIFIELD: That is exactly right Richard. At the moment when it comes to homecare packages in age care, someone who has an entitlement has to run around, firstly find a provider who has a package and secondly they have got to find a provider who has a package at the level to which they are entitled. What we are going to do from February 2017 is say if someone is entitled to a package, we will attach the package to you and then you can then take that to the service provider of your choice. Very much like the NDIS. An individual is assessed, they get an entitlement commensurate with their need and they can take that to the provider of their choice.

KING: So at the moment the money goes to the provider, not the individual?

FIFIELD: That’s right, so the individual has to find a provider who has got a package, more than that; they have got to find a provider who happens to have a package at the level to which they are entitled. So it’s a bit clunky.

KING: So as of Feb 2017 the individual who is entitled to the home care package will choose who provides that and decide what services they want and obviously who delivers it and when?

FIFIELD: That is exactly correct.

KING: You know a lot of people might say, look we don’t want the headache of making all those decisions. We would soon somebody else made that decision for us, Mitch?

FIFIELD: Well people will have the option under the new arrangements to say to a provider, look here is my budget, can you please work out what you think is best for my circumstance. So people can have the amount of involvement that they want in determining what are the various elements of their package. But they won’t have that frustration, of the difficulty of finding a provider who has got a package in the first place.

KING: And I suppose to in theory, this will create a bit more competition amongst the providers?

FIFIELD: That is exactly right. At the moment we have a lot of very good providers but individuals are largely in the hands of the providers. I think it is a much better situation when the individual is at the centre and in control.

KING: Look I had a caller this morning and this is with reference to the Stockton centre and you would be aware of our Stockton centre here in Newcastle and the implementation by the State Government of the NDIS. As I understand it and correct me if I am wrong, NSW is the only state where all disability services are being put out to private providers? Is that in fact the case, has any other state done that, with the implementation of the NDIS?

FIFIELD: What NSW is doing in relation to opening up the services that they provide to private provision is really independent of the NDIS. It doesn’t require that to happen. But what NSW is doing is in fact what many other states have done long before the NDIS. So in my state of Victoria most disability services are provided by the private sector and by the non for profit sector. So NSW is really just doing what has largely been done elsewhere in Australia already.

KING: Are you aware of the Stockton Centre and the situation there?

FIFIELD: I am aware that it is a source of some controversy.

KING: What it is, yes. I think because of the size of the Centre and the number of people who have been there for many, many years I think there is a real fear that those people if they are taken away from there just won’t be able to cope, given that they have been there all their life.

FIFIELD: I think that is an understandable concern. I think the trend over time has been away from large group or congregate settings to smaller settings for people with disability. You also have to be very sensitive to the fact that for people that have been living somewhere like Stockton, it has been their home, it is what they know. So I think we have got to be very sensitive and we have got to very much take into account, not only the thoughts of the residents, but also the families.

KING: Just for those that currently are entitled to federal home care package funding. Given that the changes do not start until Feb 2017, if anybody has concerns there certainly is plenty of time to get all the details and find out exactly what is proposed to happen, obviously before it happens and what is the best way to do that?

FIFIELD: The best way to do that is to go the Myagecare website, which is a portal, it is an access point for information about residential age care, home care and there will be regular updates on the Myagecare website about the move to the new arrangements in homecare but also about other development in age care.

KING: Myagecare, that is the website to go to.

FIFIELD: That’s right.

KING: Good to talk to you, thank you very much for your time this morning Minister.

FIFIELD: Thanks Richard, good to talk.

KING: Likewise, Federal Minister with responsibility for disability and age care, Mitch Fifield.