I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about mental health and housing.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: This morning, the minister, probably about 300 or more people and I attended a forum put on by the Mental Health Coalition. The forum was attended by consumers, service providers and a number of departmental people who were there as speakers. I noted with interest that Mr Peter Smith, who is the Deputy CE of the Department of Families and Communities (I think that is what it is called these days), talked about the fact that housing is a foundation stone for social inclusion and that the first two objects in relation to this are, first, affordable housing and, secondly, high needs housing. Mr Smith then told us that a number of disability services clients had received letters regarding the changes to the housing situation and that some of these people had been on four different waiting lists for disability services housing and therefore had received some eight letters. He also said that, in relation to people with mental health difficulties, the government does not know what the mental health waiting list is. My questions are:
1. Which agency is undertaking the lead role in assessing the housing needs of people with mental health difficulties?
2. Which agency is responsible for addressing the accommodation needs of people with mental health difficulties?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO(Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse): Obviously, these policy areas overlap considerably. The Minister for Housing is responsible for the planning and management of housing needs. Obviously, he consults with me as Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, and I, as well as departmental people, feed into that. But, basically, the Minister for Housing is responsible for housing planning, in consultation with myself.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I have a supplementary question. Is the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse aware of any information in relation to housing waiting lists for people with mental health difficulties?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: I am aware that there are many challenges in terms of waiting times for accommodating people with needs, including those with disabilities and those with mental disabilities. This government has demonstrated its commitment to assisting these people, and the Minister for Housing has undertaken significant reforms. I know that the honourable member was present at today’s address, so she would be aware of the considerable reforms going on within that sector to help improve services and access to services, as well as the quality of services, such as the introduction of an accommodation act that will help improve the quality of services in SRFs and other facilities.
Because I have spoken about it at considerable length in this chamber, I am aware that the honourable member knows about the considerable commitment this government has also given to mental health services as a priority—the designation of a minister for mental health, the reference of a mental health reform agenda to our Social Inclusion Board and the extra funding that has already been made available, plus our ongoing commitment to this area. Clearly, this area is of concern to the government and we are participating in a wide range of reforms and initiatives to help address it.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister concerned that it has taken the government four years to work out who these people are?
The PRESIDENT: Order! I do not believe that question is derived from the original answer, but the minister can answer if she wishes.
The Hon. G.E. GAGO: The previous government did nothing about it for eight years. At least this government has put in a very assertive and aggressive agenda to actually do something. At least we are prepared to have a good look at this issue.