Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (12:21): I'd like to thank the member for Parramatta for the opportunity to talk on this motion today. In my electorate on the New South Wales south coast we have one of the highest numbers of aged pensioners in Australia and I'm regularly hearing from people who are suffering because of this government's failure to provide them with adequate home care packages. One hundred and twenty thousand people in Australia are waiting for home care packages. This sounds like a high number; it is. But I want to talk about a smaller number: the individuals.
In January, Margaret was approved for a level 2 home care package. Margaret has mobility and neurological issues that cause her back and neck pain. She was discharged from the hospital in February and began receiving help through the Commonwealth Home Support Program. She was paying $140 out of her pension every fortnight for support services to help her shower, dry and dress as well as cleaning and transport for shopping. It took Margaret eight months even to be offered an interim level 1 package, but this was less support than she was already receiving. In September she was reassessed and approved for a level 3 package, but all she has been told is that she will have to wait another three to six months before she can even get a level 2 package. Margaret, like many people in my electorate, lives on her own and is frail. She needs more support, but she has been abandoned by this government.
Then there is Laurel. When she contacted my office, Laurel was in desperate need of a wheelchair. She needed help with weekly shopping, transport and social services. She needed to be on a level 3 home care package. She had been approved for the level 3 package, but she was only on an interim level 2. When she first applied for the level 3, Laurel was told that the wait time was 12 months, but this soon blew out to 18 months. But, in fact, she waited 20 months—close to two years—long enough for her needs to have increased, and she is now approved for a level 4 package. I understand she is still waiting.
These are not isolated cases in my electorate. I was recently contacted by the daughter of a 92-year-old woman from Berry. She has a severe hearing disability and is very frail, but she wants to stay in her home. In July 2018, she was approved for a level 2 home care package. She is asking for someone to help with the housework and general maintenance. She wants a personal alarm in case she falls because she won't be able to get help. These are just basic things to help this lady in her 90s stay at home. At the moment, all the help she gets is two hours of housework a fortnight and someone once a month to take her grocery shopping. After waiting 12 months for a home care package, her family tried to find out how much longer it would be and they were told she would have to wait another three to seven months—some quiet quite distressing news for her family that wants to grant their mother's wish to remain independent.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking case of all was the poor gentleman who tried to get some help for his wife. She had been approved for a level 4 package but was only receiving an interim level 2 package. She was terminally ill, but she waited six months for her home care package. Devastatingly, she passed away before that assistance arrived.
This isn't about statistics. It isn't about numbers. It is about people—real people who are struggling, real people who deserve better than to wait years for the small level of help that can give them the dignity, support and independence they deserve. Without the support of these packages, many of these people could end up in our already overrun hospital emergency departments. They could be forced into aged-care homes before they are ready or before they should have to go into them. They could injure themselves, deteriorate their conditions further, or worse.
The people of my electorate deserve better. Their families deserve better. We need urgent action from this government to fix the mess that it has created. The government has to act now to stop the wait list from continuing to blow out. It needs to show some real compassion and care to older Australians. These aren't numbers; these are real people—someone's mother or father, someone's wife or husband. They are someone to somebody. They are someone to me, and I will keep fighting to make sure they get the help they deserve.