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Labor to release modelling on ACFI cuts if elected: Neumann

The Labor party says it will release the economic modelling behind the controversial budget measure to reduce aged care funding by $1.2 billion if elected, but maintains it cannot reverse the changes.

Shayne Neumann, the party’s spokesperson on ageing, said that Labor had to make “tough calls” to bring the budget back in line.

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In addition to releasing the modelling, Labor would undertake a review of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) as part of the review of the aged care reforms, due to be tabled in mid-2017, which would be “independent, transparent, consultative and thorough,” Mr Neumann told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“I want to see the implications… the sector is telling me it’s a much greater impact and I want to know whether that’s the case, because at this point in time the government has not cooperated to reveal information to us,” he said.

However, Labor would not commit to a cost of care study, which aged care providers have repeatedly called for over the past 20 years. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert recently told AAA her party supported an independent cost of care study.

“I want to see what the review says before we commit ourselves to a cost of care study,” said Mr Neumann. “I’m not going to prejudge that and make those announcements during the course of the campaign. It might be that the review could call for that.”

Addressing wages within workforce policy

Shane Neumann

Shane Neumann

Labor recently announced that if elected it would work with sector stakeholders – such as providers and unions – to develop an aged care workforce strategy within the first 100 days of taking office.

During the last federal Labor government, a $1.1 billion workforce supplement was a central component of the aged care reforms, which aimed to improve wages in the sector. The measure was subsequently disbanded by the Coalition government.

Asked whether a re-elected Labor government would look to include a similar wages instrument in its workforce strategy, Mr Neumann said that was not a proposal this election, but added that it was clear “the market hasn’t worked and we need to take a different approach.”

“We need to look at all aspects of the workforce development strategy, that is including how do we get more money into the sector and make it an attractive career to people,” he said.

Policies on ageing, aged care

Mr Neumann said Labor had taken a broader perspective than purely focusing on aged care and its policies included having a dedicated minister for ageing, and an inter-government strategy for an “age-friendly nation” to tackle issues such as age-friendly communities and mature age employment.

Labor would also “re-calibrate” the existing Dementia and Aged Care Services Fund (DACS) into an “active ageing fund” to focus on areas including dementia and falls prevention, and would be indexed to increase over the forward estimates, he said.

Labor ‘supportive of general direction’ of roadmap

Labor has been non-committal on the proposals outlined in the Aged Care Sector Committee’s roadmap for reform. Previously Mr Neumann has argued the current reforms should be implemented fully before more ambitious measures are embarked on.

Asked for Labor’s position on the key recommendations, Mr Neumann said the roadmap was described as a “discussion starter” and it would be “foolish” to commit to the proposals without looking at the budgetary consequences.

“It certainly provides some direction in terms of improving consumer control, good quality aged care and opening up the sector with market reforms. Now Labor has been the party of those types of reforms through Living Longer Living Better, so of course we’re supportive of the general direction of the roadmap,” he said.

As part of our Election 2016 coverage, Australian Ageing Agenda has also sought an interview with Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley, but is currently awaiting a response.

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