Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:29): (190) My question is to the Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers. Last week was World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, but for prevention workers and the elderly who receive much-needed support there was nothing to celebrate, given the government has cut the integrated model of care. As you know, Minister, the IMOC provides elder abuse prevention workers around the state. In PAEC last week you described this as a trial that has come to an end. Given just one service provider has seen more than 1200 clients in the funded period and client demand is increasing, with waiting lists currently between eight and 12 weeks, can you explain who is replacing these locally based elder abuse prevention workers in these communities who offer face-to-face assistance?
Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (12:30): Thank you, Ms Bath, for the question. Yes, I was very pleased to explore this issue at PAEC last week on what was world awareness day for the atrocity of elder abuse. All people in our community, particularly those who are elderly, deserve to live free from abuse, from neglect and from exploitation. This government is absolutely committed to that, as we have explored already in this question time alone and certainly previously in this place and as I was pleased to explore with the committee at PAEC last week. In terms of the investment that we are making in relation to elder abuse initiatives, the 2023–24 budget invests $6 million over four years in relation to $2.5 million for the continuation of elder abuse prevention networks that provide community-based primary prevention services and that raise awareness of the issue of elder abuse across communities across Victoria and $3.5 million for the continuation of the Seniors Rights Victoria support service, which includes a statewide elder abuse helpline which provides free information and referrals as well as legal advice, casework, advocacy and education on matters specifically relating to elder abuse. The four years of funding for these programs provides certainty for these programs that they have never actually had previously. Ms Bath spoke of the integrated model of care trial. It was indeed a trial. As well as the targeted bushfire recovery project, these were both very impactful projects in communities, but in the view of government it is most definitely time to integrate our services, to provide a broader approach to community and family violence services across the board and to enhance service capability across the board. We need to be very clear here that counselling and mediation services, including financial counselling, will remain available in the areas that will no longer be serviced by these lapsing initiatives, as well as ensuring that there is access to training and access to resources. It is simply not right to characterise it as these services disappearing from these communities, and in fact I would suggest that it is irresponsible to do so. Professionals working with older people can continue to access secondary consultation from Seniors Rights Victoria or from Better Place Australia.
It is important to note that these were important programs, and the lessons learned from this investment are what enable us to continue the investments that we are making in order to protect people from the atrocity of elder abuse. They are also what enable us to respond to and prevent elder abuse from actually occurring in the very first instance. We are committed to tackling elder abuse, and the 2023–24 budget investing $6 million and ongoing funding prove that this government is absolutely committed to ensuring that the atrocity of elder abuse is, preferably, prevented and certainly that we are providing those services to assist people who are victims to get the services and whatnot that they need, because all people do deserve to live free of abuse.
Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:33): I thank the minister for her response. Minister, you will be aware that people who suffer from elder abuse do not want to deal, often, with the police, one of the reasons being that in some cases it involves family members. One of these elder abuse prevention workers was based in Traralgon. Will that person be able to continue their important role, or are they out of a job and is the service removed because of your cuts to this trial?
Lizzie BLANDTHORN (Western Metropolitan – Minister for Disability, Ageing and Carers, Minister for Child Protection and Family Services) (12:34): I cannot speak to the particular circumstances of the particular individual and their role that you are talking about. I can confirm that the integrated model of care trial and the targeted bushfire recovery project are lapsing programs. What we are doing is investing the $2.5 million for the continuation of elder abuse prevention networks that provide community-based primary prevention services that raise awareness of elder abuse in our community – in your community and in communities right across Victoria, Ms Bath – and the $3.5 million for the continuation of the Seniors Rights Victoria support service, which also includes the statewide abuse helpline which provides free information and referrals wherever anybody lives, legal advice, casework, advocacy, support and education on matters that specifically relate to elder abuse. Importantly, this funding is for the first time ongoing. There will be certainty in relation to funding for, preferably, the prevention of elder abuse and, in the case of elder abuse, services to support those people who are victims of elder abuse. These services are continuing; these services are ongoing.