Ageing, Disability and Home Care Service

Approximately 47 minutes ago I finished a phone call with my constituent Mrs Suzanne Rasmussen, and I have a matter of concern to share with the House. I certainly hope that media personnel have not packed up their pens and typewriters because they may well have a story coming their way right now. The Rasmussens adopted their son from foster care several years ago. He has certain needs and disabilities and is in the high care category. He was adopted under a funding arrangement known as Young People Leaving Care, which was designed specifically to assist families who had put up their hand to take on young people with high needs, get them away from the foster care scenario of being bounced from house to house and family to family, and to give them a more permanent, loving and caring relationship as well as a home.

Unfortunately, earlier this year Ageing, Disability and Home Care [ADHC] gave service providers who were managing the funding for a young person leaving care just nine days to submit a review proposal. In the midst of that, ADHC changed the criteria. Having asked for an urgent and sudden reapplication, between the months of April, May and June there was no further contact, conversation or funding coming from ADHC for special needs foster children who had been adopted. Indeed, to this day in November—some 10 months later—the provider, who manages the child adopted by the Rasmussen family, still has not received a response from ADHC in relation to the application process. However, late in June funding resumed.

While I acknowledge resumption of the funding, it is important to note that it was slashed significantly. The money that would be made available to the Rasmussen family to look after their high needs adopted son, whom they had taken in willingly and knowingly from foster care, had been drastically decreased. Finally, contact was made with ADHC but, unfortunately, the only way that the Rasmussen’s could achieve that was to take on an advocate to act on their behalf.

At that time ADHC was no longer talking to the Rasmussen family nor was it talking to the officially funded provider that was handling the money. ADHC has at no stage offered any explanation or opportunity for the family or the provider to understand what led to the cut in funding, what criteria were used or how the funding will operate and where it will go in the future. As of 31 December 2014, ADHC will force all families in this situation onto an entirely new program and package. We are less than six weeks from that date and there has still been no understanding, explanation or conversations whatsoever with the families of these needy young people who were adopted or taken out of foster care and put into loving homes. It is completely unacceptable.

Indeed, the advocate who was engaged by the Rasmussen family managed to obtain the single piece of formal written correspondence from ADHC. In that correspondence they were assured that there would be a psychological and case manager assessment of their son sometime during September, but it has still not happened. The Rasmussen family go online to talk to other families across the Hunter, and as far as Taree, about the changes and the changing circumstances of need, as they too have had their funding severely cut, withdrawn or altered. These families want to make the best possible life for the young people they have taken care of after taking them out of the enormously expensive system in New South Wales. They want to do the right thing by these young people whom they took under terms and conditions of having some support and funding made available from the New South Wales Government.

It is one thing to take money away from these people and another to slash the funding in half. The very least we can do is to offer them an explanation so that they can understand the reasons behind it, the assessment process used and the future direction. As of 31 December these families will go onto a completely new funding model about which they know nothing. They are entitled to an explanation from ADHC. I will be advocating for the Rasmussen family in this House.