Our six point election plan - the Coalition responds – Break the Sound Barrier

Our six point election plan – the Coalition responds

All major parties have responded to Break the Sound Barrier’s  six point election plan – which is fantastic news.  Here’s the Coalition response:

The Turnbull Coalition values the significant contribution Deafness Forum Australia makes to support  Australians and their families living with hearing health issues

#1 Free hearing checks for Australian children at key stages of life

The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring all children are able to access hearing services during key stages of life.

Approximately 98 per cent of all babies born in Australia already receive a hearing screening prior to hospital discharge.

State and Territory Governments have newborn screening programmes for infants and young children to ensure early access to treatment for hearing loss. Some jurisdictions have screening for occupational hearing loss.

If an infant is diagnosed with any hearing loss after the hospital screening, they will automatically be referred to Australian Hearing, the Government’s hearing services provider for services and support.

Services available under the Hearing Services Programme include a hearing assessment, to assist in decision-making about appropriate management of the individual’s hearing loss

#2 A national hearing awareness promotion campaign

The Turnbull Coalition is committed to raising national awareness of hearing.

In 2014 and 2015 the Coalition Government provided the Deafness Forum of Australia with annual funding of $10,000 to support national Hearing Awareness Week activities.

Hearing Awareness Week is an annual event, conducted in late August to raise awareness about hearing impairment and hearing loss prevention.

Arrangements have been put in place by the Turnbull Coalition Government to support Hearing Awareness Week 2016, up to the value of $20,000, doubling the investment from previous years to support promotion of hearing Australia-wide.

#3 Improved accessibility for Australian Sign Language (Auslan)

The Turnbull Coalition supports improving accessibilitiy to Auslan interpreting services. This is why the Turnbull Coalition is fully committed to implementing the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

Currently, the National Auslan Interpreter Booking and Payment Service (NABS) provides accredited Auslan interpreters to Deaf Auslan users free of charge when they attend private medical consultations. Medicare rebateable consultations, provided in a private medical practice (by a General Practitioner or Specialist), are covered. Consultations that occur in private or public hospitals are not covered by this service.

Under the NDIS, services previously provided by NABS will form part of the package that supports people eligible for the NDIS. NDIS participant plans provide an individualised service with a focus on enabling individual choice and control over the planning and delivery of support. As an NDIS participant, current NABS clients will likely be eligible for a greater level of comparable service than they currently receive through NABS and other disability services. For example, NDIS participant plans may include booking services for a broader range of appointments, not just medical. It is expected that all NABS users under the age of 65 will be eligible for the NDIS

#4 Universal access to hearing health checks every five years for people over 50

The Turbull Coaltition will continue to ensure that all eligible Australians receive either fully or partially subsidised hearing services under the Hearing Services Programme.

Eligibility for the programme targets those Australians who are least able to afford hearing services or who are in ‘at risk’ groups, including Pensioner Concession Card holders which service older Australians.

These services are delivered respectively through the Voucher and Community Service Obligation components of the programme.

A number of hearing service providers already offer a free hearing check to prospective patients

#5 Make hearing devices tax deductible

The cost of a hearing aid is an eligible expense for the purpose of claiming the Net Medical Expenses Tax Offset, which provides a safety net for taxpayers who have incurred significant expenses above defined thresholds and who meet certain criteria.

From 1 July 2015, eligibility conditions for the Net Medical Expenses Tax Offset allows taxpayers to claim expenses relating to disability aids, attendant care and aged care. Hearing aids are considered an eligible medical expense by the Australian Tax Office (ATO).

Net medical expenses is the amount you have paid less any refunds you receive from Medicare or a private health insurer for eligible medical expenses over the tax year. For the 2015-16 income tax return, if you have over $2,265 in eligible out-of-pocket expenses, the ATO allows a 20 per cent tax offset (that is, you get back 20 cents in the dollar) on anything over this threshold. There is no upper limit on the amount you can claim. This offset is income-tested and if your adjusted taxable income is above $90,000 for singles and $180,000 for a couple or family, the tax offset reduces to 10 per cent and the expenses threshold increases to $5,343.

The family income threshold is increased by $1,500 for each dependent child after the first.

The Coaliton Government will continue to review the tax treatment of such devices, including in the context of the NDIS.

#6 Don’t let children fall through the gaps with changes to the way hearing services will be delivered in Australia

The Turnbull Coalition supports ongoing consultation with experts and people with a disability as the NDIS is rolled out.

The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has consulted with the hearing disability sector and established an early childhood intervention (hearing loss) expert reference group to:

  • advise on contemporary evidence to inform NDIA early childhood intervention (hearing loss) policy and guidelines; and
  • assist in the development of guidance to improve the capacity of NDIA staff to understand and apply this evidence to access and planning decisions.

The NDIA, with the assistance of Independent Advisory Council members, has also been working to develop appropriate and relevant Auslan to convey the true, intended meaning of NDIS concepts for people in the deaf community.

The project includes the development of signs, and supporting information about why and how each sign was developed. The project will include implementing a simple and regular process for sharing information, and for updating materials as required.

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