Budget: Aged care

The $17.7 billion package for aged care is welcome but it is $3.5 billion/year whereas the Royal Commission recommended an additional $10 billion a year – much of which was required to catch up on what the Commission found was under-funding for the past 24 years.

It is piecemeal rather than structural and able to be whittled away over time. For instance, instead of raising wages, registered nurses will be given $3,700 a year if they stay with the same aged care provider.

The money will come from general revenue, despite the Commission recommending funding aged care into the future with a tax or medicare-style levy, again leaving aged care at the mercy of cuts in future budgets as the deficit bites.

80,000 home care places are to be delivered on the back of 33,800 places for personal care worker training over the next 2 years. The government promised 275,000 home care packages by 2023.  This will require significant effort but should allow people to stay in their homes for longer and relieve pressure on more expensive residential care.

Arbitrary caps are still being used rather than a universal right to high-quality, safe and timely support and care.

The government has agreed to the Royal Commission’s recommendation of a minimum of 200 minutes of care per day per resident but ensuring compliance is likely be difficult, if not based on staffing levels. (Prior to changes brought in by the Howard Government, 70% of funding was required to be spent on staff.) There is nothing about minimum qualifications or for training in dementia care. 

There is a much-needed $630 million over five years to improve access to services for people in regional, rural and remote areas including $370 million over four years for aged care providers to make improvements to their buildings and expand into underserviced areas.

$10 extra per day per resident is welcome but there is no guarantee this will be used for additional staff, higher wages, quality and safety standards or other shortcomings found by the Royal Commission.

In all, it’s a large and much-needed injection of funding for aged care. There should be greater transparency and accountability, particularly for private, for-profit aged care providers. And what’s to stop ministers rorting rural grants for electoral gain?

There’s a limited star rating system and 1,500 more audits every year but nothing to stop profiteering in the growing private sector or to stop abuse and neglect. 

See here for our aged care plan.

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