Greater local support is to be provided to people with disabilities in country areas of Western Australia.
Federal Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services Brian Howe and State Disability Services Minister Eric Ripper said today that the boost would come from a joint Commonwealth-State expansion of the local area co-ordination program.
The program was established in 1988 to provide better support to people with intellectual disabilities in rural and remote areas of Western Australia.
The expansion announced today by Mr Howe and Mr Ripper would benefit people with physical, sensory or psychiatric disabilities and, depending on its success, might be extended to other States.
Mr Howe said the Commonwealth had provided more than $356,000 to assist the development of local area co-ordination for people with intellectual disabilities.
"An evaluation in 1990 concluded that the program had been very effective in helping to prevent the movement, to institutional care in cities, of people with intellectual disabilities," he said.
"This led to a further contribution by the Commonwealth of more than $960,000 to expand the program."
Mr Howe said both the Commonwealth and State Governments were strongly committed to innovative service delivery systems which provided a sharper focus on meeting individual needs, while improving the level of accountability in service delivery.
Mr Ripper said the State Government's $180 million Social Advantage package would complement this initiative with a further $450,000 for those people not covered by the Commonwealth plan.
"This is part of the total $1.7 million allocated in the package specifically for people with disabilities," he said.
"The funds also cover extra therapists in mainstream schools, increased support for carers of people with disabilities, and expanded travel concessions."
Mr Ripper said that, under the program, local area co-ordinators were responsible for helping meet the needs of people with disabilities and their families in local communities, by arranging support and assistance.
Mr Howe said Commonwealth funding was provided to ensure Government monies were properly meeting the needs of people with disabilities.
As part of this project, the Commonwealth also provided $650,000 over three years to the Edith Cowan University in Western Australia. This funded training programs to help staff working in disability services, including local area co-ordination.
"The university will be developing strategies to improve opportunities for Western Australians with disabilities to live and work successfully in their chosen community," Mr Howe said.
"This partnership and close co-operation between different levels of Government with academia wisely use community resources and expertise and augur well for the future."