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Labor ‘not in a position’ to reverse government’s ACFI changes

Labor has committed to reviewing the Aged Care Funding Instrument if elected but said it was not in the position to reverse the government’s funding changes  a statement peak bodies have challenged.

At yesterday’s National Aged Care Alliance meeting in Melbourne, Shadow Minister for Ageing, Shayne Neumann, announced Labor’s election commitments around ageing and aged care.

Mr Neumann acknowledged concerns raised by the sector around the recent changes to the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI). He said Labor would commit to reviewing ACFI as part of the upcoming legislated Living Longer Living Better (LLLB) review.

However, he said that Labor would not be able to reverse the combined $1.6 billion savings to the ACFI announced by the government during the recent Federal Budget and the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

“I will not sugar-coat it: Labor is not in a position to reverse those cuts,” he said.

If elected, Mr Neumann said that Labor would commit to an aged care workforce strategy within the first 100 days of government, in collaboration with the sector.

He said this strategy would address training and qualifications, pay and conditions, career pathways and worker needs, as well as the unique challenges facing rural and remote communities and special needs groups.

Also within the first 100 days, Labor said it would seek to address ongoing problems with the My Aged Care gateway, in consultation with the sector, consumers and health professionals.

With regards to the recently released Aged Care Roadmap, Mr Neumann said the document was an important starting point for discussions and directions to consider within the LLLB review, but that it was not a replacement for the review itself.

“I do note there are some who insist we make a commitment to the roadmap’s progression and to a deadline for its implementation,” he said.

“It would be irresponsible for Labor to commit to what was supposed to be a discussion starter, without the benefit of thorough analysis of the financial implications and what it will take to ensure consumers are equipped and prepared to take control.”

Mr Neumann said Labor also wanted to look more broadly than aged care services in its policy scope, and  promised it would develop a national strategy to ensure Australia is an ‘age friendly’ nation.

It promised to instate a dedicated Minister for Ageing and establish an active ageing fund, which it said would refocus existing grants programs, and support initiatives to reduce risk of dementia, prevent falls, improve physical activity and healthy lifestyles.

Labor has not yet released the costs of its proposals.

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Adjunct Professor John Kelly, CEO Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) told Australian Ageing Agenda that ACSA was “generally encouraged” by Labor’s announcements.

In particular, he said that the 100 day commitments around both the workforce strategy and My Aged Care were positive and set a level of accountability.

Adjunct Professor Kelly also welcomed the active ageing fund and a dedicated Minister for Ageing. He said ACSA would push further during the election campaign to attempt to ensure that this was made a cabinet position were Labor elected.

However, Adjunct Professor Kelly said ACSA planned to push Labor to do more with regards to ACFI. He said promising a review did not go far enough and challenged Labor’s statement that it could not reverse the ACFI changes.

“We don’t believe that’s the case at all,” he said. “We’ll be pressing the Opposition to go further and say that they’ll freeze any changes to the current ACFI processes until there’s a review carried out with the sector.”

Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) said it welcomed Labor’s commitment to review ACFI modeling.

“The ACFI review announced by Mr Neumann is an important first step in finding a solution for the funding shortfalls between government modelling, and the true cost of providing complex care services our seniors need and deserve,” said spokesperson Beth Cameron.

However, LASA said it did not “lessen the blow” of the funding changes to ACFI announced in the budget.

“We call on Labor to reconsider reversing the cuts imposed by the Coalition Government so that our seniors receive the care they need and deserve,” Ms Cameron said.

National Seniors Australia said it “cautiously welcomed” Labor’s announcements, and said a narrow focus on aged care at the government level had done older Australians a disservice.

“Ageing is about so much more than age care – it covers all aspects of society – from employment to health, education, retirement income and liveable cities,” said chief executive Michael O’Neill.

Mr O’Neill said Labor’s aged care announcements were “a start”, and the workforce strategy particularly important.

“Staffing remains the key issue for consumers and their families in residential age care – it is so central to the quality of care people receive,” he said.

“It is not unreasonable for ‘the consumers of age care services’ to expect clearer direction from the alternative government than ‘we will undertake a review’.”

Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au 

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5 Responses to Labor ‘not in a position’ to reverse government’s ACFI changes

  1. C Payne May 28, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    They don’t need to cut they just need to be brave and remodel the means tested fee and have consumers with capacity to pay make higher contributions and focus tax payer dollars to supported / full pensioners
    Such unnecessary angst and poor policy

    They also need to review specified care and services schedule to enable clarity to support the additional services which will help unlock dependence on govt resources.

  2. R Baker May 30, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    So the Government reckons that the $1.6b budget “savings” in Aged Care funding (= cuts to required services) is a result of “unexpected” cost growth in the sector. As if the we haven’t known about the increased ageing population for the last 35 years (which is why Hawke introduced the Superannuation changes in the 1980’s). Didn’t they think that the extra funding was required because extra people are moving into aged care, and that people under care become more frail?

    What they mean is not “unexpected”, but “unplanned for”; which means that for the last 20 years Governments have either been asleep at the wheel, and/or hand-balling the problem down the line. And so now Labor reckons they can’t reverse the decision (because they don’t want to be attacked by the Liberals for increasing spending).

    Industry, don’t let them off the hook – maintain your rage, and keep fighting for those who after a lifetime of contributions to this country (and the tax system) are now at their most vulnerable. Freezing the changes would be a good start.

  3. Drew Dwyer May 31, 2016 at 10:04 pm #

    No politics allowed. Keep them on the issue and keep the pressure on them all. Our seniors need this funding to provide the care They truly need in the last years of their lives. The government needs to hold a responsibility to the public to ensure they will receive high complex care when it becomes essential and funded by the tax payers.

  4. David F June 1, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Shayne Neumann offers little hope to ensure the most vulnerable frail aged to obtain affordable access to quality residential care when they present with complex end-of-life health issues. While the Lib-NP Coalition Gov’t has cut the aged care budget through the recalibration of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI), a Labour Gov’t isn’t going to change this Treasury decision.

    Such poor planning over the past 50 years to prepare for the huge wave of ageing Australians is fairly atypical of successive governments of both Labour & LNP. We look back at a history of under estimating the actual need and the frail aged are short-changed.

  5. Viv Allanson June 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    This is like those who deny the climate science …Politicians are in denial about the true costs of quality aged care and as long as they ignore the issue and continue to blame “greedy” providers the more desperate the situation will become. It has been a real joy to offer our residents qualified therapy services, appropriate staffing and additional dementia and quality of life programs,…but wait was I dreaming that this way of life could become the norm for older frail people living in our facilities. Apparently I was quite unrealistic to think that these people deserve even a fraction of what is delivered in the hospital system or from what I hear the prison system and yet even with what the govt calls budget blowout it is still much more cost effective than those other services. Providers have been doing so much with a pittance for too long…it is time to call politicians to account just as they have been doing to us day after day with rigourous audits and reviews highlighting our apparent incompetence in implementing the most complicated funding tool we have ever had the misfortune to manage and now we have the real threat of litigation against individuals who repeatedly get the instrument wrong. it is laughable when you think what happens to politicians when they missclaim or misstate their financials , property, board interests or helicopter bookings , well they might get a media slapping but it goes away. Their “mistakes” or dare I say deliberate oversights are trivialised ..how fair is that as it is all tax payers money. This clawback is a real reflection on how poor our society has become, not financially but morally when no one other than aged care workers and Carers are prepared to be a voice. No we are not all greedy we just want the best of “modern” residential care for those in our care and guess what …that does come at a price.

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