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Matters of State - Carers

Friday, June 15, 2012

Looking after someone's every need, usually unpaid, probably on duty around the clock, surely attracts only saints to apply for the job. Yet it is fact that three in five of us will be a carer at some point in our lives. Carers put their lives on hold to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community and they do it because they care.  Visiting the Orana Early Childhood Centre in Dubbo recently gave me reason to reflect upon the role of carers and how much poorer society would be in their absence. While participating in a sing along with the children, staff and parents at the centre I caught a glimpse of what life must be like for a great many families in our community who cope with the additional challenges posed with caring for special needs children. Of course caring can take a number of forms with childcare and disability care among the most common. However it is the care provided to the aged and those suffering with a mental illness that perhaps brings with it the greater burden of responsibility. For instance the personal cost of caring for a loved one with mental illness was highlighted in a new study of 1000 carers by Wesley Mission released recently. It surprised me to learn that almost 90 per cent of the carers report a harmful effect on their own physical and mental health and three in four report adverse effects on relationships with family and friends. Almost 60 per cent said their employment and financial situation had deteriorated. These statistics highlight to me that carers must be acknowledged, supported and appreciated for their work. Working with people with a mental illness and supporting their families and carers is pivotal to achieving strong outcomes in mental health care. Research shows supporting carers benefits consumers, including enhancing the effectiveness of service delivery, decreasing hospital admissions and reducing relapse rates. Last year the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government delivered the largest increase in funding for mental health in the state’s history. The NSW Government spent $1.34 billion on mental health services in 2011-12, an increase of $109 million - or 8.8 per cent - on the previous year.  One way of acknowledging this important role is the public recognition provided to those many unsung heroes in the community, through the NSW Carers Awards. The hard work of carers often goes unnoticed, but this is one way for the community to recognise the incredible sacrifices they make. The categories for the awards include Individual carer; Carer support group; Supporting Working Carers – Government sector; Supporting Working Carers – Non-government organisation; Supporting Working Carers – Private sector; Supporting Young Carers – Primary/secondary school; Supporting Young Carers – Tertiary education provider; Supporting Young Carers – Non-government organisation and Supporting Young Carers – Government agency. Nominations can be made online at until Friday 15 July 2012.  Carer's awards will be presented announced during NSW Carers Week on Sunday 14 October to Saturday 20 October. A special event will be held on Monday, 15 October at NSW Parliament for the major recipients.



Giving the community a voice

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Now that the Parliament has resumed it is important that community issues are highlighted whenever possible. In the first sitting fortnight of the year I hit the ground running by raising a matter of public importance that will resonate with people in regional New South Wales and the Dubbo electorate. We know that thousands of cancer patients and their families in the electorate have had to endure traveling long distances for treatment with many struggling to recoup the costs of transport and accommodation incurred in large part due to the complexities of the subsidy system that has been in place. With this in mind, I chose to   draw attention to the Isolated Patients Travel and Accommodation Assistance Scheme (IPTAAS) in Parliament during the week in order to highlight significant improvements made to the scheme and the benefits it now offers regional and rural NSW, whose residents will enjoy having greater access to services in a more structurally efficient health system designed to overcome the financial disadvantage they suffered under the old scheme. IPTAAS was established to provide assistance to people living west of the Blue Mountains with limited access to specialist medical services.  Health Minister Jillian Skinner made a commitment to the people of rural and regional NSW that she would deliver an improved scheme. The Minister has certainly achieved that objective with the measures introduced recently. The changes that took effect from 1 January this year included an increase in travel rates for patients requiring accommodation assistance having traveled at least 100 kilometer. The accommodation subsidy has increased by 30 per cent. The rate increased to $43 for a single person and $60 per double, up from the original $33 for a single and $46 for a double. Reimbursement for car travel is now 19¢ per kilometer, which is up 4¢ per kilometer.

The Parliament embraced a little bit of ' Hunka Hunka Burning Love' this week when I entertained colleagues with stories highlighting the success of the 20th Parkes Elvis Festival. I started by referring to the memory of the hip swiveling, pelvis gyrating, pop culture icon of his day whose awe-inspiring journey from an impoverished upbringing in Memphis to the man who would go on to be referred to ever after as the King of Rock 'n' Roll is honoured each year when the township of Parkes throws open its doors to the world and welcomes Elvis Presley fans to celebrate the life and music of this most remarkable man. During the festival the population of Parkes almost doubles, as it plays host to literally thousands of die-hard Elvis fans from around the globe. Parkes had no connection whatsoever to the man from Memphis, Tennessee; yet it has earned its claim to fame among Elvis aficionados. Some 18,000 visitors took part in some 150 events, which delivered a welcome injection of $9 million into the local economy. During the five days of the festival 80 volunteers dedicated more than 700 hours of work to ensure that it ran smoothly and some generous local residents offered 1,776 beds in their homes to accommodate visitors. What better indication could there be of the wonderful sense of community this festival engenders among the good people of Parkes.

One of the great joys of representing you is the opportunity it regularly provides to meeting inspiring and interesting people from country communities. I had the pleasure of speaking in Parliament about Corinella Public School, a small country school which is a largely unheralded education gem. Towards the end of last year I was invited to attend, with my daughter Taylor, a "Mad Hatters" tea party as part of the end-of-school presentation day. Affectionately referred to as "the school in the paddock", Corinella, located in the south-west corner of my electorate is a small, somewhat isolated rural school, with farming paddocks serving as its nearest neighbours. For many years there has been a school of thought among some in the education sector that bigger is always better. Corinella provides a fine example of how a small school can defy the odds. There is enormous pride within this school, much of which can be attributed to the collective attitude of its students, parents, teachers, administrators and the community. Their sense of ownership of the school's future direction and prosperity is a privilege to witness. I believe that I have within my electorate one of the best little schools in NSW. At Corinella my daughter and I were made to feel part of that special community, as we were served high tea consisting of homemade cupcakes by nine contented students. The experience served as a reminder, not that it was really needed, that small communities offer a warm and hospitable setting in which to educate children.

'Hey you kids protect your lids' bicycle road safety program run in Trundle and Tullamore has received $8,400 of funding under the NSW Government 2011-12 Sport and Recreation Participation Program that will see $800,000 in grants provided to local projects across the state for the purpose of getting more people playing sport. Increasing participation in sport and physical activity is a key priority for the NSW Government and grassroots projects run in local communities are a great way to target people and groups that need a little extra help to participate in sport. Whether it’s teaching new migrants how to swim, getting youth off the streets at night and into basketball competitions, or providing training for volunteer umpires and referees, the end result of these projects is that more people in NSW will have the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity.




Meeting healthcare needs in Parkes and Forbes

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

With the commencement of the Parliamentary sitting year less than a fortnight away, my focus has shifted towards close engagement with the community over the proposed service delivery plan to meet the future healthcare requirements of Parkes and Forbes. Under Labor, the health infrastructure and services delivered to the Parkes and Forbes communities were largely neglected and allowed to fall behind other facilities offered elsewhere in region. The important ongoing work of the health council and local health district to interpret the community wishes over the future of hospital services is an integral part of this process. It is important to remember that the local health district is endeavouring to meet community expectations whilst ensuring that the services to be delivered are sustainable over a long period of time. Their intention is to deliver world class services to Forbes and Parkes by the best method available. That may entail some change to the way services have been provided in the past.  I ask the community to approach this concept with an open mind and to also consider the potential benefits from the adoption of an enhanced service delivery model.

With the rapid pace of technological change, accompanied by increased patient expectations our ageing population will continue to place great demand on quality health care. Like many other communities Parkes and Forbes have long suffered from inadequate expenditure on health infrastructure and services. The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is getting on with the job of delivering on our election commitments in the health portfolio. I share Minister for Health Jillian Skinner's determination to pursue a fair go for regional NSW and a fair share of health services for the communities in the Dubbo electorate. The 2011-2012 NSW Liberal/Nationals budget delivered $3 million to kick start the Parkes and Forbes hospitals planning process. I wish to commend the CEO of the Western NSW Local Health District Ron Dunham and his team for their committed approach to this project and for seeking to engage with local community representatives before making any firm decisions about the delivery of services. 

The NSW Governments determination to deliver facilities that will attract and retain medical specialists willing to establish practices servicing Forbes and Parkes will not diminish. The community deserves no less. However this process will not occur without some adjustment but will lead to the ultimate benefit of the community at large. The enormous gratitude I share with many others in the community for the sterling effort of our hard working doctors, nurses and allied health workers as they have gone about their daily tasks in less than adequate conditions cannot be overstated. I look forward to keeping you informed of important stages in the development of the service delivery plan.

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