Above: National Seniors chief executive, Michael O'Neill.
By Stephen Easton
Two groups representing older consumers have rejected the idea that the Productivity Commission’s aged care reform package has the support of older people.
As members of the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) prepared to address the National Press Club yesterday, lobby group National Seniors warned the government not to “blindly follow industry in rubber stamping the Productivity Commission’s aged care reform blueprint”.
National Seniors CEO, Michael O’Neill, said that more detail was required about staffing, ageing at home and funding options, and that a recent survey of 1,800 National Seniors members found 70 per cent opposed the idea of including the family home in the aged care assets test.
“This doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to contribute,” Mr O’Neill said.
“In fact, three quarters had no problem with paying something towards their aged care. But when it comes to the family home, the message to government is, ‘Hands off’.”
Another lobby group for older consumers, the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA), published results from their own survey yesterday, which found similar results among a sample of 1,492 people representative of all Australian adults.
The CPSA survey, conducted by the Australia Institute, found that over two-thirds of Australians rejected the idea of “being forced to sell or reverse mortgage the family home to access aged care, as proposed by the Productivity Commission”.
In an article published yesterday, CPSA policy and research officer, Antoine Mangion, called on the federal government to abandon the recommendations contained in the PC report, which another CPSA policy officer previously called “an undisguised grab for older Australians’ home equity”.
Above: CPSA senior policy and research officer, Antoine Mangion.
“Only five per cent of respondents strongly supported the Productivity Commission’s proposal to force people to sell or reverse mortgage the family home to pay for aged care,” Mr Mangion said.
“Clearly, the federal government must steer clear of compulsory sale or reverse mortgage of the family home to fund aged care.”
Mr Mangion said the survey findings would provide some context to the aged care forum at the National Press Club arranged by the NACA, which he called “an aged care provider lobby group whose main function in life is to cry poor on behalf of the nursing home industry”.
NACA also counts professional bodies, unions and consumer groups among its diverse membership, including the Association of Independent Retirees and COTA Australia, whose CEO, Ian Yates, spoke at the National Press Club forum and has previously rejected the CPSA ‘s objections to the PC report.
The CPSA also attacked COTA Australia’s appointment as the facilitator for a series of public ‘Conversations on Ageing’ with Minister for Ageing Mark Butler. The Conversations themselves have been criticised recently for being run mostly in electorates held by Labor or independent members.
“Throwing out Research Methods 101, the Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler awarded COTA a $410,000, non-contested contract to gather and convey consumer views on the Productivity Commission's reform proposals to guide the government’s response,” Mr Mangion said.
“Too bad that COTA, as an advocacy organisation and member of NACA, had already formulated a view on the Commission's proposals that they’re a good idea. Somehow [Mr Butler expected] COTA would objectively report back people's concerns about the reform proposals, including those it does not agree with.”
Above: Ian Yates, CEO, COTA Australia.
Contrary to both the survey commissioned by the CPSA and the survey run by National Seniors, COTA Australia’s report on the Conversations claims that "there were usually one or two people at each Conversation who expressed concern about having to sell their principal residence but this concern was not generally picked up and supported by the majority of the audience”.
“There was recognition by many [Conversation participants] that this is the norm now,” Mr Yates continues in the report.
“This begs the question,” Mr Mangion said, referring to the marked difference between the survey results and the COTA report, “how were these conversations run?
“...how could [Minister Butler] engage a NACA-member organisation with a predilection for the Productivity Commission's reforms, to conduct these consultations?”
The CPSA said, as an alternative, it supports Medicare-style social insurance for aged, disability, general health and dental care, an approach it believes should have been taken decades ago, but with the added condition of progressive pricing, meaning people with more assets should pay more than people with fewer assets.
Mr Mangion also argued that "the future for residential aged care lies in clustered residential development, using universal design principles that enable independent living and the effective and efficient delivery of community aged care", and described nursing homes as "islands of misery" providing "a certain recipe for depression and premature death".