Transcript by Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield

Shoalhaven 2ST Radio

Program: Shoalhaven 2ST Radio


DUFFIELD: Ann Sudmalis, Senator Mitch Fifield is here in the Gilmore electorate and you are both having a look at aged care services in the electorate. What will you be showing and telling?

SUDMALIS: Well it is basically, from, I had a village select a little while ago and there was significant concern with early onset dementia. So we have had our first briefing with that group, he of course spoke to our greatest advocate for disability services and employment which was Karen Anstiss. And we have a forum now about aged care in general and of course one of the big issues in our local area which is the Meals on Wheels. So, and then there is of course another visit up in Kiama as a last visit so it is a very busy day today.

DUFFIELD: Now, Meals on Wheels specifically, can you tell me what are the issues facing Meals on Wheels, what you hope will be the outcome of the visit today?

SUDMALIS: Well, they have expressed a lot of concerns, but a lot of the problems have been misunderstanding of how the new legislation is rolling out and Mitch will sort that out. So I’m sure when you speak with him, because I will hand the phone over very shortly, he will put that all in the appropriate place and clarify it for us.

DUFFIELD: As an overview, over the Gilmore electorate, what are the issues facing us in aged care here?

SUDMALIS: Well, we have, probably, the third-highest aged demographic seat in Australia. So anything that affects aged care effect Gilmore. So we have to make sure that we are on the ball and that is why the Minister is here to gather information and then take that back policy-making.

DUFFIELD: Do you have a wish list?

SUDMALIS: Oh, I think we are working up through some really good information gathering today. And I think as a result of that discussion and talking to the actual people on the ground, the advocates, the carers, I certainly will have a better picture than I have at the moment.

DUFFIELD: Alright, now I understand you are able to hand me over to the Senator?

SUDMALIS: I will, I will hand the phone over right now, he is Mitch Fifield.

DUFFIELD: Thank you very much.

FIFIELD: Hi Trish, how are you?

DUFFIELD: Good morning, Senator. What have you seen already in the Gilmore electorate?

FIFIELD: Well, I have caught up with Karen Anstiss from Slice of Life, and boy, she is an impressive woman with a terrific organisation doing great work with people with disabilities. And also, caught up with the young onset dementia support group in Berry. Young onset dementia is something that doesn’t get talked about a lot, but it has been really great to hear from the family members about the challenges that they face and the sort of support that they need. Alzheimer’s Australia provides good guidance to people as to what are the sorts of questions they should ask, what are the sorts of support that are available.

DUFFIELD: Now who else and what else will you be seeing while you are down here?

FIFIELD: Also catching up at an aged care forum in Berry a little later today and that will be a good opportunity to hear from people about the things that they think are working in aged care. But also the things that they think need improvement. I always find that the best source of advice on these matters are families and providers themselves.

DUFFIELD: Are there outcomes or is this really a look and see visit?

FIFIELD: Ann has been very keen for me to come here. And one thing I know about Ann is when she asks you to do something you don’t treat it as a request. You treat it as an order. And you say yes because it will save time. But Ann has been very keen to me to get to this neck of the woods to listen to providers in aged care about some of their concerns and also importantly, to listen to the people who receive aged care supports about what they need.

DUFFIELD: Now Meals on Wheels was an issue that Ann raised a short while ago, and the issues that they are facing. Will you specifically be having a look at what their problems are?

FIFIELD: Absolutely, Meals on Wheels organisations around Australia do great work. We have some changes that are coming in place nationwide. We are setting up from 1 July a program called the Commonwealth Home Support Programme which brings together a number of different programs such as the Home and Community Care Programme, day therapies program and a few other programs into a new, entry level support for people who are facing some extra challenges because they are getting older. Now, one of the things that we will have with that new programme is a new fees policy. Because at the moment, around Australia there are different fees policies in every state and different fees policies in every region. We have put out a discussion paper about that fees policy. We are getting feedback. And I am here to get more feedback today. The purpose of the discussion paper is to recognise that public servants in Canberra, love them as we do, don’t necessarily always have the best handle on how things work on the ground. So I want to listen and where we need to make adjustments before we put the fees policy in place, that is what we will do.

DUFFIELD: Now, if you had to have a bit of a snapshot summation of Gilmore and the issues facing Gilmore with aged care and some of the other issues that feed into that, homelessness or low income earners or welfare dependent people, how would you describe the electorate?

FIFIELD: Oh, look, it is an electorate that has some very good aged care providers, whether they are residential aged care providers or providers of support at homes, like Meals on Wheels. Great providers. Look, what I am always picking up from aged care consumers is that they want to have more choice. They want to have more say about the sorts of support that they receive and who they receive them from. That’s something that I have taken on board and I am keen to find ways in aged care that we can put more power in the hands of individual consumers.

DUFFIELD: Yes and that is something that is being rolled out across the disability sector as well so are you. Something akin to that?

FIFIELD: Yes, that’s right, with the National Disability Insurance Scheme someone is assessed, they get an entitlement commensurate to their needs which they can take to the service provider of their choice. Increasingly, consumers in aged care are wanting to have the opportunity to have more of that approach. From the middle of this year we are taking some baby steps in that direction in home care, through the introduction of consumer directed care. Where consumers will have a greater say over what are the elements of their home support package. But I would be keen in the future, to see if we can go another step further and actually attach people’s home care packages to the individual. And to then let them choose the provider that they think is best.

DUFFIELD: Now, while you are here, do you have the pleasure of any ribbon-cutting at all?

FIFIELD: I don’t think there will be any ribbons to cut on this occasion, but I am always open and willing and hope to have the opportunity to come back and cut some with Ann in the future.

DUFFIELD: Yes, I think that must be one of the best pleasures of being a politician, is actually cutting a ribbon on something you helped set up.

FIFIELD: Well, you know, always happy faces when you are cutting ribbons.

DUFFIELD: Senator Mitch Fifield, thank you very much your time today.

FIFIELD: Terrific, good to be with you.