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Estimates: Veterans' Carers and other Support Services

Senator WRIGHT: I want to ask some questions in relation to the increasing number of veterans with physical and mental problems who are being cared for in their homes by spouses, family members or other unpaid carers. I am aware of the concern of people in the community through consultations and discussions that I have been having. I am interested in better understanding what support is given to carers of veterans to enable them to accompany the veterans to hospital or care facilities-for example, transport services. Are these only available if the carer is travelling with the veteran? First of all, I will ask some specific questions. If the carer takes the veteran to hospital and then needs to return home, do they receive any support from the department for the return trip?

Ms Daniel: Under the repatriation transport scheme, we cover the costs of travel for the veteran but not for the carer, except in the circumstances where there is a medical requirement for an attendant.

Senator WRIGHT: What support is available to carers to enable them to visit veterans in hospital, aged care facilities or other places of treatment, respite or convalescent care? Is there a transport or accommodation subsidy available to carers in that situation?

Ms Daniel: As far as I am aware, we do not have a specific funding stream that would supplement that through the department.

Senator WRIGHT: They need to fund that themselves or make arrangements.

Ms Daniel: As I mentioned, our repatriation transport scheme is there to provide support to get the eligible persons to and from their medical appointments. But it does not extend to supporting their family in any associated travel.

Senator WRIGHT: This is an issue that has been raised with me by carers wherever they live but particular for veterans and carers in rural areas, who may have to travel significant distances to hospital or other treatment facilities and then stay there for some time to be able to visit their partner. It has been raised with me as a particular issue for carers of veterans who may be suffering from mental health issues like post traumatic stress disorder and so on. They are quite keen to be able to visit their loved one in hospital to keep them company and reassure them while they are away from their home. Just so I am clear, there is no provision of such support for carers of veterans in rural, regional and remote areas where the place of treatment may be some distance from the home of the veteran and their carer?

Ms Daniel: We will qualify this if I am wrong, but as I have stated our transport scheme supports the veteran in terms of transport and accommodation assistance and a medically required attendant but not partners in a general sense.

Mr Farrelly: For clients under SRCA and those getting rehabilitation under MRCA, if there was a clinical need then we would try and help with the costs of a carer. But I am better off taking that on notice and giving you some further information on that. But if there are carers involved, depending upon clinical need, we can provide some additional help and assistance.

Senator WRIGHT: It would be really helpful if you could do that. I guess that I would be interested in defining, in a sense, what those clinical needs might be and how they might be established. Thank you for that. I understand that if a veteran is hospitalised their carer's carer allowance payment is cancelled after six weeks. Is that correct? I understand that when they are away from home and hospitalised and the carer is not providing that physical day-to-day care, the carer allowance is cancelled.

Mr Farrelly: That too we would need to take on notice. You might have in mind carer allowance through Centrelink.

Senator WRIGHT: That probably is the case. That is the only carer allowance for carers of veterans that I am aware of. If I am wrong on that, I would be interested in being corrected on that.

Mr Campbell: You are right. We have not provided a carer allowance for some time. It was in the 1990s that it went to Centrelink. That is an issue for Centrelink, but in the spirit of trying to help the committee we will get some information from them.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you very much-I appreciate that. If it is not prevailing on you too much-and if this is too difficult, I will understand-I would like to ask you about the process to reinstate a carer's carer allowance payment once the veteran is discharged from hospital. Is there a requirement to reapply for the allowance? That is the information that partners and carers have relayed to me.

Mr Campbell: I understand your question. We will do what we can in answering the first question. If we can then get any other information, we will try to answer the second as well.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you for that. I suppose the question that has been asked of me is this: is there any possibility of having arrangements-because this occurs on a not infrequent basis-so that rather than that allowance being cancelled it is suspended so that it can be reinstated more simply when the veteran returns home.

Mr Campbell: Given our great desire to make sure that veterans and their families are well looked after, you are asking a very pertinent question. We will pursue that as well.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you very much. What respite services or care exists for carers of veterans through DVA?

Ms Daniel: We have a range of initiatives. I will follow up with the detail on notice, because I do not have it all with me. But our veterans home care program allows some respite support. That is probably the key initiative that we have. Obviously, through our community nursing programs we provide additional support, although that is not specifically respite care. Veterans can also access a range of community programs. We also offer some respite through our hospital arrangements. We will confirm those on notice for you.

Senator WRIGHT: Thank you for that. Perhaps you could also take on notice whether there is any coordination between DVA and other government departments to enable carers of veterans to access additional respite care if needed. I am thinking of FaHCSIA, perhaps. If you could look into that and give me-

Ms Daniel: Those circumstances for individuals tend to be worked out on the ground. Our veterans home care assessment agencies would be very aware at the local level what is happening in any individual circumstance.

Senator WRIGHT: I understand that palliative care service for veterans are provided by hospices. Are there alternative palliative care offered to veterans with mental illness such as PTSD when they are not willing or able to leave their home? Are you aware of any services that are accessed by DVA for them?

Ms Daniel: The main one that I will mention is part of the community nursing program that I mentioned. We do have what we call an exceptional case unit. We have the ability to provide palliative care support through that program.

Senator WRIGHT: This question is in relation to the Anzac centenary celebrations. In this year's budget the government announced that it will provide $83.5 million over seven years to fund a program of initiatives to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the Anzac centenary. This question is in particular in relation to the Hawke-Fraser commission on the Anzac centenary and one of the recommendations that there should be an Anzac centre for the study of peace, conflict and war. This was to be an education centre focusing on the study of the nature of social conflicts, the causes of violence and the definitions of peace, as well as research into new structures for resolving conflict. I am interested to know whether this Anzac centre is included in the forward estimates.

Mr Campbell: No, it is not.

Senator WRIGHT: Why not?

Mr Campbell: The government made decisions about a number of issues. They were announced as part of the $83 million that you referred to. The government decided at that point in time to provide no funding for such a centre, so it is not included.

Senator WRIGHT: So there has been no work done on costing that, then, and there are no plans to implement that recommendation. That is what I understand you to be saying.

Mr Campbell: There are certainly no plans by the government to implement that recommendation at this stage. At various times, particularly at the time of the commission that the two former prime ministers were on, some indicative costings were done about bricks and mortar et cetera. But that has not proceeded because at this stage the government has not taken the decision to take up that recommendation.

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