The Health News – 04 February 2014

Overview

  • Australia’s Human Rights Commission will conduct an enquiry into children in immigration detention and its effects on them.
  • In Victoria, talks between paramedics and the State Government over an ongoing pay dispute have broken down.
  • Uncertainty remains about the eligibility criteria for the impending National Disability Insurance Scheme and how assessments will be conducted. A symposium organised by Griffith University yesterday in Brisbane discussed how the scheme will be enacted.
  • A South Australian Government move to increase funds available to the Patients Assistance Transport Scheme is receiving widespread commendation.

Health News on HPR.

Human Rights Commission to assess welfare of children in immigration detention – no author listed
Australia’s Human Rights Commission will conduct an enquiry into children in immigration detention and its effects on them. The enquiry will cover the children’s mental health, instances of self-harm, and the assessment methods used for children before they are sent offshore. President of the commission Gillian Triggs said a key objective is to gain information from the Immigration Department on the issue. She said “I think I’d have to say over the last few months, we’ve had minimal cooperation in relation to the kinds of details that I need to know, particularly mental health, self-harm and the processes for those that are transferred. In particular, we’d like to understand more about the mental health of these children. The instances of self-harm, how they’re being treated when they’re manifesting conditions of extreme anxiety. I’d also like to understand how they’re being assessed to be sent offshore to Nauru. Why some are being sent, why some are not, et cetera.” Immigration Minister Scott Morrison said the government will cooperate with the enquiry, but said the issue only gets investigated while the Coalition are in power. He said “We’re now going to face another inquiry from the Human Rights Commission into children in detention. There were no children in held detention when the Coalition lost office in 2007 – there were over a thousand when Labor lost office. The last time that the Human Rights Commission decided to do an inquiry into children in detention it was when the Howard government was in office, now they’re doing one the Abbott Government is in office.” Mr Morrison said the Commission must explain why there wasn’t an enquiry while Labour were formerly in power.

Paramedics to consider strike action after pay talks break down – no author listed
In Victoria, talks between paramedics and the State Government over an ongoing pay dispute have broken down. The Ambulance Union said the Fair Work Commission negotiations concluded with the union rejecting a one-off 6 percent pay rise, after last year rejecting an offer of a 12-percent increase over 5 years. Union secretary Steve McGhie does not rule out the possibility of industrial action, and said We have to make an application to the Fair Work Commission to conduct a protected action ballot of all the members. We’ll have a list of bans that range from paper work and administration bans right through to stop work meetings.” The bans could take effect in the next few months.

Questions over NDIS eligibility assessment – by Nance Haxton
Uncertainty remains about the eligibility criteria for the impending National Disability Insurance Scheme and how assessments will be conducted. A symposium organised by Griffith University yesterday in Brisbane discussed how the scheme will be enacted. Brian Herd, an expert in disability law who spoke at the event, said “One of the difficulties seems to be that because it’s a roll out system, it’s not possible, it appears, for people to apply before they’re 65 unless the system’s actually come to town as it were. So the reality is they have to wait for it to be rolled out into their region before they can apply. In the meantime, of course, they could pass the magic age of 65, so they’ve lost the opportunity to apply. So that’s a bit of a confusion and in some ways a little bit of an injustice in some ways, depending on which regions the Government chooses initially. There’s been a phrase coined called “disability refugees” who are looking for the opportunity to join the scheme. And some people suggest that that means they’ll actually move from where they live normally to an area where the scheme is operating in order to qualify for the scheme.” Queensland will be the last state to participate, and won’t enact the measures until 2016. But the chairman of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Bruce Bonyhady, says that it is important to introduce the scheme on a trial basis so that it can be iterative improvements can be made; and also that people who relocate to access the scheme will be ineligible. He said “There’s no evidence of people moving to trial sites in order to get access to the scheme. And people need to be very careful about that, because the legislation is very clear that if people move to a trial site purely for the purposes of gaining access to the scheme they won’t be eligible, and chances are they will also not be eligible for state-based supports, and they would be moving away from their own natural support. So it’s something that would be very unwise for someone to do.”

MPs air support for PATS funding boost – no author listed
A South Australian Government move to increase funds available to the Patients Assistance Transport Scheme is receiving widespread commendation. The government revealed last week that they will make an additional $2.5 million per year available for the travel-subsidy initiative. It will also increase the accommodation subsidy from $30 to $40 per night, among other changes. Family First MLC Rob Brokenshire said “It does show that when the community express concern and governments are not listening, that when push comes to shove, you can get changes and that’s good for South Australian country people. Even with this increase, the reality is when you compare state-by-state, we’re still at best in the middle of the ball park but notwithstanding that, this will help a lot of people who are tragically suffering from serious illness and need to access healthcare in Adelaide.” The independent for Mt Gambier, Don Pegler, said he has been working tirelessly to get people in the region better healthcare access, and said “In the last four years I’ve been in Parliament, I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing the Government and they agreed to do a review and then once that review was completed, then we were able to prove to the Government that the scheme was inadequate…We made sure that the Government announced this massive increase in funding prior to going into caretaker mode, so that it’s set in concrete and not just a promise.”