Social Services Portfolio
Department of Social Services
This chapter outlines key issues discussed during the 2014–2015 additional
estimates hearings for the Social Services Portfolio.
The committee heard evidence from the Department of Social Services
(department) on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 February 2015. Areas of the portfolio
were called in the following order:
Cross Outcomes/Corporate Matters/Grant Programs
Ageing and Aged Care
Aged Care Quality Agency
Disability and Carers
National Disability Insurance Agency
Families and Communities
Cross Outcomes/Corporate Matters/Grant
Proceedings commenced with discussion on the department's grants
processing and grants purchasing. As part of ongoing consideration of the
grants process, the department explained the term and level of funding offered
under each activity that was a part of the 2014 grants process.
The department tabled information at the hearing relating to grants including,
executed new grants as at 26 February 2015, the profile of applications
received for the open funding rounds and the outcomes of funding rounds
undertaken in 2014.
The department undertook to take several questions on notice relating to the
The committee followed up from discussions from the previous Budget Estimates
about the new accommodation of the department in Tuggeranong.
The department has signed the agreement for the arrangements for the new
building. In regards to parking at the new building, the committee was told
that the developers will build a service road at the back of the property with
200 car parking spaces.
This will be in addition to car parking available underneath the new building
non-affected car parking outside the existing property.
Outcome 4 Housing
Senator McLucas asked the department how they calculate the amount
allocated to Commonwealth Rent Assistance for private rentals beyond the
current fiscal year.
The department responded that Commonwealth Rent Assistance is not a primary
payment, and that the payment is calculated by considering the individuals
eligibility and access to a number of other payments including the aged pension,
disability support pension, carer payment and other payments.
In terms of a forecast, the department looks at what growth has been in the
previous year, finding that over recent years the Commonwealth rent assistance
has been exceeding those estimates.
In response to a question about the work being done to respond to the
increasing number of people who are living in rental stress, the department
outlined that they monitor closely people's ability to pay their rent or their
mortgage or to get a home loan in the first place.
Outcome 3 Ageing and Aged Care
The department provided an overview for the committee on the
establishment of the national severe behaviour response teams regarding
dementia behavioural problems.
The teams will have clinical experts who can provide advice and intervention for
those displaying extreme levels of behavioural difficulties. The department
explained that while the dementia behaviour management advisory services play a
valuable role in the system now, they are directed at more general low level
behaviours that might be experienced in residential care.
The severe behaviour teams will be able to respond on request to a
provider who is having difficulty caring for someone who has very extreme
The committee heard that the team would come into the home and 'work with the
particular facility and resident to put in place strategies to manage the
behaviours causing concern'.
The committee discussed the aged care service improvements and healthy
ageing grants program. The committee heard that funding for the program was
part of the grants round, with funding focused on service delivery.
The committee heard evidence from the Aged Care Quality Agency regarding
the Kepnock Grove Retirement Centre.
The committee heard that the agency is currently conducting a review audit at
the home prior to making a decision about the home's ongoing accreditation.
Outcome 5 Disability and Carers
The committee discussed with the National Disability Insurance Agency
(NDIA) people who have cognitive impairments who are caught up in the justice
Mr David Bowen, Chief Executive Officer of the NDIA, outlined that in the
Hunter trial site the NDIA works with custodial facilities 'when a person is
being discharged back into the region [so] that preliminary work can happen
around their eligibility [for the NDIS] and what supports can be provided'.
The NDIA outlined that identifying people as they are coming out of the
justice system tends to be on an individual basis. The NDIA is advised by the
relevant authority of the discharge arrangements, after which the NDIA arranges
to meet with the person and assess their eligibility.
The NDIA is unable to determine the eligibility until the person is actually
physically located in the trial site, but is able to complete all the
preparatory work so 'when they are there, the supports can be quickly put in
Outcome 2 Families and Communities
The committee heard evidence from the department on increasing the
involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in advocacy and
policy development in regards to violence against women.
The department explained that:
...[w]e have certainly taken the attitude in the development of
the national plan and in the ongoing running and operation of the national plan
that involving women is a huge benefit to developing projects and deliverables
that really work. We would fully support the engagement of Indigenous women in
projects and work.
The department also has responsibility for the involvement of women from
culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, which has seen the
department holding discussions across Australia to find out what their views
The committee heard evidence about the trends in the costs of child care
and the Productivity Commission's report on child care and early childhood
learning. Questions were asked about the recommendations made by the Productivity
Commission in its report—some of these focussed on how the proposed changes may
impact on children at risk and if the department has done any modelling on the
cost of nannies.
When asked about the recommendation that child care subsidies for children
at risk move from 100 per cent of the actual cost to the benchmark price and
who will pay the difference the department said:
not know that the productivity [commission] makes a recommendation on who
should pay that difference. I think they are suggesting the government subsidy
should be the full cost of the benchmark price. It is open to interpretation
whether the individual is expected to pay the difference or to shop around for
care that is provided within the benchmark price. It is not clear.
Outcome 1 Social Security
Under this outcome the committee heard evidence from the department
about the process by which a person can have their payments cancelled under the
Counter-Terrorism Legislation Amendment (Foreign Fighters) Bill 2014.
The committee heard that 'it is the Attorney-General who has that
decision-making power about whether or not to issue a notice requiring cancellation
of a person's payment'.
The Attorney-General issues that notice to the Minister for Social Services who
then provides notice to the secretaries of the Department of Social Services and
Department of Human Services (DHS). The Secretary of DHS, who is the delegate,
will then cancel payments.
Senator Zed Seselja
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