Disability Access

The Hon. JAN BARHAM: I direct my question to the Minister for Finance and Services, representing the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure. The Disability (Access to Premises—Buildings) Standards and accompanying changes to the Building Code of Australia commenced on 1 May 2011, giving greater emphasis to universal design principles. To support these reforms, an Access Advisory Committee has been established to assess applications for exemptions from the standards, based on unjustifiable hardship. Will the Minister advise whether any Commonwealth or New South Wales disability advocacy organisations have representation on that committee? If not, why not? Will the Minister advise how many applications for exemptions from the standards have been sought from the Access Advisory Committee and whether the exemption process will be mandatory?

The Hon. GREG PEARCE: I thank the Hon. Jan Barham for her very interesting question. I will be interested to obtain an answer from the Minister and provide it as soon as possible.

FINANCE AND SERVICES—EQUAL REMUNERATION CASE

Ms Barham to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra—

  1. In paragraph 10 of the Minister for Finance and Service’s submission to the Equal Remuneration Case Fair Work Australia, the Minister states the Government’s policy response to funding cost increases associated with the case would be cutting expenditure on existing government services. Will the Government fund pay equity from Stronger Together II, Keep Them Safe and Brighter Futures budgets?
  2. Are funding budgets for Stronger Together II, Keep Them Safe and Brighter Futures quarantined?

 

Answer—

On 16 May 2011, the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia handed down an interim decision on the first application for an equal remuneration order under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Fair Work Australia has invited further submissions from interested parties on this issue. Further hearings will be held before Fair Work Australia on 8, 9 and 10 August 2011. The Government is currently considering whether it will make a further submission. If so, it will be due 21 July 2011.

The Government will be in a better position to provide informed advice in relation to the issues made by Ms Barham following any final decision of the tribunal.

AGEING, DISABILITY SERVICES—COMPLAINTS TO AGEING, DISABILITY AND HOME CARE QoN

Ms Barham to the Minister for Finance and Services, and Minister for the Illawarra representing the Minister for Ageing, and Minister for Disability Services—

    1. Does Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) collect data on complaints about:
      1. ADHC operated services?
      2. ADHC funded services?
    2. If so:
      1. How do ADHC or non-government service providers collect this data?
      2. How often does ADHC collect this data?
  1. How many complaints about ADHC services has ADHC received for the years:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
  2. What percentage of clients receiving ADHC provided services have made complaints for the following years:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
    1. Does ADHC classify or analyse complaints received?
    2. If so, how does ADHC classify or categorise complaints?
  3. Of the complaints received for the following years what percentage required rectification of ADHC process, behaviour or actions:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
  4. Of the complaints received for the following years what percentage involved an allegation of a breach of the NSW Disability Service Standards:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
  5. What is the breakdown of complaints received for the following years by AHDC regions:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
  6. What percentage of the total complaints for the following years were lodged with ADHC by an advocacy service funded by ADHC:
    1. 2007?
    2. 2008?
    3. 2009?
    4. 2010?
    1. Has ADHC conducted a review of the complaints and grievance handling policy and procedures for disability services?
    2. If so, please provide an update on this review and advise when a report on the review will be released.

 

Answer—

  1.  
    1.  
      1. Yes. 
      2. Yes
    2.  
      1. ADHC staff are required to record complaints using ADHC’s electronic Client Information System (CIS). ADHC funded non-government service providers have their own systems in place for recording and reporting complaints in order to comply with their service agreement.
      2. Information on complaints regarding ADHC operated services is reported in CIS immediately a complaint is made. ADHC collects data on complaints regarding funded non-government organisations as reported.
  2. Complaints about ADHC services are reported by financial year.
    1. 2006⁄07 – 2,449
    2. 2007⁄08 – 3,189
    3. 2008⁄09 – 2,362
    4. 2009⁄10 – 2,328 and 2010⁄11 – 756 (Year To Date – as at 30 March 2011)
  3. The following are complaint incidence rates for the relevant periods.
    1. 2006⁄07 – 3%
    2. 2007⁄08 – 3%
    3. 2008⁄09 – 2%
    4. 2009⁄10 – 2% – The 2010⁄11 figure can be provided at the end of the financial year.
  4.  
    1. Yes
    2. Complaints are classified according to service types and by issues.
  5. This data is not currently available. Data currently available indicates that this is not a significant feature of complaints. Over the period October 2010 to March 2011, only 4% of the complainants who notified a desired outcome from their complaint sought a change to policy⁄procedure. 70% of these have been finalised with the complainant’s desired outcome met or a compromise negotiated.
  6. Complaints data is not currently categorised to identify how it relates to breaches of the NSW Disability Standards.
  7. This information is reported by financial year.
      2006⁄07 2007⁄08 2008⁄09 2009⁄10 2010⁄11
    Central Office 261 674 351 271 78
               
    Regions
    Metro North 647 753 961 411 96
    Metro South 553 503 292 526 182
    Hunter 43 103 65 86 59
    Northern 132 168 53 99 73
    Southern 305 506 451 677 117
    Western 508 482 189 258 151
    Total NSW 2449 3189 2362 2328 756
  8. The system does not currently capture information at the degree of detail required to accurately identify complaints lodged by an ADHC funded advocacy service.
  9.  
    1. A review of the feedback and complaints handling policy and procedures is in progress.
    2. It is anticipated that the revised policy and procedures will be released in July 2011.

National Volunteer Week

On behalf of The Greens I make a contribution to the motion of Hon. Greg Donnelly in acknowledgment of National Volunteer Week. I thank the Hon. Greg Donnelly for moving the motion. I place on record the appreciation of The Greens of the enormous contribution made by volunteers in the New South Wales community. Their passion and commitment for supporting their local communities must be recognised and celebrated. Volunteering is an essential part of strong and resilient communities. In my community volunteering in part fills the gaps left by insufficient government funding of services. In a sense volunteers become a safety net. In my inaugural speech last night I commented on how volunteers in rural and regional communities are the glue and that without their work many of the support services in our communities would fall apart. No doubt the Hon. Paul Green will agree with me that from a local government perspective the good work of our volunteers is relied upon.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the great contributions made in my community by volunteers. It was fantastic to hear the Leader of the House acknowledge the young award winners who were present in the gallery today. I have some interesting statistics indicating how many Australians engage in volunteering each year: 5.4 million people. It is nice to see but I suppose not surprising—and I mean no disrespect—that the statistics show that slightly more women than men volunteer. We need to understand why that is happening, and by doing so perhaps more men will take up the challenge of volunteering. We should encourage equity in our contributions and involvement in resilient, vibrant and healthy communities. It is all about health and well-being, and that is what I want to talk about.

On average 1.1 hours a week are volunteered. Busy people say they cannot find the time to volunteer. The theme for this year’s National Volunteer Week is “Inspiring the Volunteer in You”. We must send the message that volunteering gives back to the individual. That is often forgotten. People think that they are too busy to volunteer. But by volunteering one hour a week and meeting wonderful people in their community they also enrich their own lives. As I have heard many times, people who go out into their community and help those in need get so much back. At times we think that life is tough, that we are too busy and we are struggling to cope. But when we know of others who are less fortunate or in greater need, it stops us thinking that way. That awareness is something that money cannot buy.

While I applaud the work of volunteers across New South Wales, I realise that we have to aim higher in terms of increased volunteer participation. In some areas in New South Wales less than 10 per cent of the population contributes voluntary work. I appeal to the Government to continue to review how volunteer work can be supported, encouraged and enhanced. Perhaps it could be done through further grants and assistance, particularly in the regions where transport support may assist people to engage in the community. We have to determine how we can make improvements and provide opportunities for greater participation. I am honoured as an elected representative to be invited to many events in my area and become better informed about my community. When I became mayor I was invited to meetings and events that I had no idea ever took place in my community. I have met with small groups who look after others in the community. They perform work that many of us do not know about, but if they stopped performing that work, we would notice.

Some groups help those less fortunate, for example people who live on the street. Since the global financial crisis, the number of people turning up at soup kitchens and seeking services from regional community centres in my area has increased by 60 per cent. We have to offer more support to those who need assistance and those who provide it. The Volunteering Australia website has information about how business and corporate entities can encourage and support their workers to volunteer during work time. I congratulate the business and corporations who support their employees to contribute in this way. It is a fine way to meet their corporate social responsibility benchmarks by allowing their staff to go out into the community and do good work. When those employees come across others less fortunate, they will have a greater appreciation of the opportunities they have in their lives. It is a valuable lesson.

Members have raised the important work of the State Emergency Service [SES], the Rural Fire Service and emergency rescue workers. I have often heard stories of accidents and emergencies in my area where these people attend all hours of the night and then turn up for work the next day. Sadly, sometimes they have attended accidents where the victims are people they know. It takes enormous strength and resilience to keep doing it and to keep giving back to the community. National Volunteer Week gives us an opportunity to recognise the work of our volunteers. Volunteering should be recognised every single day. We should keep it in focus and support it. The previous Labor Government implemented laudable programs and support for volunteers, such as, providing free national park passes to State Emergency Service volunteers. These small gestures, which do not cost a lot of money, are an acknowledgement of our appreciation and a way of giving back. I encourage the Government to think creatively about providing more support in this way.

We must reflect on current impediments that act as disincentives for people who are currently volunteering or contemplating giving their time to their community. I draw the attention of members to the New South Wales publication “State Electoral Districts Ranked by 2006 Census Characteristics”, which provides interesting data. It shows that country electorates rank high in volunteering. The fact that metropolitan areas are lower ranked deserves our attention. We have to make it easier or more attractive for people in the cities to volunteer in their communities. In many ways, it is easier for people in denser communities to volunteer. In my area a tremendous amount of people provide voluntary work. The average for volunteering in communities is 17.7 per cent of the population. My community is ranked right up at the top with 27 per cent of people engaged in volunteering. Volunteering covers a broad area; there is something for everyone. There is bush regeneration work, as I have done, or working at a soup kitchen or with the Girl Guides, the Rural Fire Service and the Christian Women’s Association [CWA]. I am very proud of the Christian Women’s Association membership in my area.

Mention has been made about cadetship programs. A few years ago organisations in country areas noted the lack of young people amongst their membership. Since then, they have made a concerted effort to attract young people. They have gone to schools to talk to students and encourage them to do volunteer work. In my area, Suffolk Park station was being vandalised. A crew went along to the local school, informed the young people about the importance of community work and encouraged them to become involved. Now a high percentage of young people are volunteering in the community.

The Rural Fire Service brigade leader in Suffolk Park, Greg Miller, won our Volunteer of the Year award last year. I note that our local group went to Queensland to help during the floods. I wish to make special mention of a wonderful friend, Noel McAviney from the State Emergency Service. Noel has volunteered also on committees of the council and is a fantastic person in our community. Both the Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service encourage the participation of women as well as young people. Finally, I mention another member of my community who gives his time and energy endlessly, Paul Irwin, a member of the surf life saving organisation and sports association. These wonderful people deserve to be recognised and applauded. I thank the Hon. Greg Donnelly for moving this motion.

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