Supported Residential Facilities

17 Oct 2007 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse a question about supported residential facilities.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Several years ago, when the Hon. Steph Key was minister for housing and disability, from recollection—

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Indeed; it is a shame. She was a very good minister. She established a board and care subsidy for people with complex needs residing in supported residential facilities (SRFs). This client group includes people with psychiatric disabilities. At the time of the implementation of that subsidy, it was expected that, of the some 1,000 residents in SRFs, between 20 and 25 per cent would fall within the client group and be eligible for the subsidy when, in fact, it was some 50 to 55 per cent. That resulted in a rationing of services so that, for example, instead of eight hours a week of care and support, a client might receive two to three hours a week. I have obtained a copy of a joint response prepared by the Supported Residential Facilities Association and non-government community service providers of the support and care referred to in my previous comments. It states:

 ...accommodation and a personal care package will have their rights protected should they move from one establishment to another.

It suggests that that would be a package that would move with the client. The SRF Association and non-government organisations believe that licensing needs to apply to two core services:

accommodation provision and personal care and support services. In doing so, it suggests certain legislative amendments to some regime of legislation that would govern the SRF sector. My questions are:

1. Can the minister advise how many people with psychiatric disability are residing in SRFs?

2. Can she confirm that the board and care subsidy will expire in June 2008?

3. Can she provide an update on the current policy provisions to assist this group of people?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Environment and Conservation, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, Minister Assisting the Minister for Health) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her important question. Indeed, stable accommodation is a very important aspect for everyone but particularly for those experiencing mental illness. It is an important ingredient in terms of being able to ensure ongoing wellness and quality of life for the people concerned, and it helps to reduce the number of relapses back into illness they may experience. This government has a number of supported accommodation strategies to support this group in terms of their needs. Currently, we have 36 pension-only supported SRFs, which can accommodate approximately 1,053 people. The vast majority of these are private-for-profit services, and 53 per cent of residents are identified as having a psychiatric condition or disability. Those figures are from December 2006.

In November 2003, the government introduced a five-year $57.7 million support package to assist residents living in SRFs with additional personal care, health and disability services. This package has improved the health and wellbeing of many residents through improved access to disability support, allied health, dental, optical, podiatry, welfare and other services. However, concerns remain about the ability of the SRF model to meet complex needs. The government has signalled its intention to develop legislation in the accommodation act to better regulate the sector. Of course, minister Weatherill will be responsible for that. I am advised that the legislative framework proposed is a three-tiered licensing regime based on the provision of accommodation, food and personal care that will encompass all forms of congregate care living for vulnerable people.

There is a range of other initiatives, of course. Mr President, you would be well aware that, under the Stepping Up reform agenda of the Rann Labor government, we have identified the need for extra supported accommodation. That was noted in the Social Inclusion Report and it has been integrated into our stepped model of care. As I have reported before, it is a reform system, a more balanced system of mental health care with a broader range of services targeted at earlier phases, so the main focus is on early intervention and prevention. It particularly includes the increase in the number of supported accommodation places. The government has committed $43.6 million into mental health, and that is only part of the package. The total package over the past year has been about $107.9 million to reform and rebuild our mental health system. That will include an additional number of beds across the whole system.

There are other initiatives. The honourable member asked what other strategies we have in place. There are homelessness initiatives that recognise the link between mental illness and homelessness, and that will be targeted to assist chronically homeless people, which also includes people with mental illness. There is the Street to Home program, which is a joint initiative between the Department of Health, the Department for Families and Communities, and the Social Inclusion Unit. That provides an assertive outreach response to inner city homelessness. There are also psychiatric disability support packages and an integrated inner city service system. There is also a range of demonstration projects that involve homelessness which I think have been reported here before. As members can see, it is an area that the government is well aware of in terms of the very sad link between homelessness and people with mental illness. We have put a wide range of strategies in place to assist and meet the needs of this particular group.