Access to Overnight Centre-Based Disability Respite

The Auditor-General, Mr Peter Achterstraat, is encouraged that the Department of Human Services now provides more respite to carers and families. The number of people using disability respite centres has increased by 20 per cent since 2006. Respite is a time-limited break from care-giving, to help carers support people with disabilities to live at home. 

“However, I am concerned that the right people may not be getting respite,” Mr Achterstraat said.

There is no consistent approach to determine who gets respite and how much they get.

“Sometimes it’s not what you need, but where you live. For example, in the Southern Region of New South Wales only 2.3 per cent of potential users access respite centres, compared to 5 per cent in Sydney,” said Mr Achterstraat.

“We found the number of people getting more than 60 days of respite a year has jumped 64 per cent since 2006. Such high use may indicate that families need other support as well as respite,” he added.

Money is not always used wisely.

“Too many beds are empty. The Department doesn’t know what NGOs are providing under some older funding arrangements. The Department also pays some NGOs twice as much as others to provide an hour of respite care and can’t always explain why,” said Mr Achterstraat.

These were some of the findings in the report released today by the NSW Audit Office. The audit examined whether access to respite is working well to support people with disabilities and their carers.

Mr Achterstraat outlined two key solutions: “The Department and NGOs should allocate respite according to need. The Department should speed up the introduction of a consistent approach to distribute respite on the basis of need.

The Department needs to do a stocktake. It needs to know where beds are and how they are used so it can make the best use of our money.”

Further information

Barry Underwood, Executive Officer, on 9275 7220, 0403 073 664 or email