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Stable aged care funding urgently needed, providers tell government

Residential aged care providers are calling for a long-term funding strategy to ensure sustainable delivery of services and an adequate workforce, warning government that past budget cuts continue to wound the sector.

As the Federal Government prepares to deliver Budget 2017-18 in May, provider peak bodies are calling for a moratorium on any further cuts to the sector’s funding, arguing that a succession of recent surprise measures has hindered the development of new facilities and services.

The Aged Care Guild, which represents the nine major for-profit residential providers, said that “continued cuts, revisions to expenditure and incorrect forward estimates ultimately deter growth and impact stability.”

The conditions necessary to expand the sector to meet demand are not being assisted by government, the guild said in its pre-budget submission to Treasury.

“What we are experiencing is an uptake in license applications and allocations but providers’ not being willing to build,” due to the impact of measures such as the cessation of the payroll tax supplement and funding cuts in recent budgets, the guild argued.

Treasury should also consider that any impacts on the capacity of the sector to meet projected demand might place a strain on the public and private hospital system, the peak said.

“The sector is finding it increasingly difficult to attract investment and lending support and achieve the returns necessary to operate sustainably,” said guild CEO Cameron O’Reilly.

Similarly, Aged and Community Services Australia called for a “sustainable funding model” saying this was a key element of the reforms that had not yet been delivered.

Funding should support a consumer-driven, market-based and less regulated aged care sector as outlined in the Aged Care Roadmap, the peak argued in its pre-budget submission.

$2 million for industry-led workforce taskforce

ACSA has requested the Budget provide $2 million to fund the establishment of an industry-led taskforce to develop a workforce strategy for the sector.

Five aged care peak bodies – ACSA, the guild, Leading Age Services Australia, Catholic Health Australia and UnitingCare Australia – have developed a framework and are agreed on the need for an “industry-led taskforce” to develop a workforce strategy.

“While this taskforce would be industry-led, it requires the support of government, through a commitment on the part of agencies to collaborate and participate in consultations with other stakeholder groups,” said ACSA.

LASA chief executive office Sean Rooney said his peak is not providing a Budget submission this year as it is directing its efforts to a portfolio of detailed, evidence-based policies – which include provider financial stability and viability – that reflect the needs and issues informed by members.

Ramp up release of home care packages

Catholic Health Australia called on the government to improve consumer access to community care by assigning packages based on an older person’s assessed need, rather than via the four package levels, and to ramp-up the release of packages as already committed.

“We urge the government to announce in the 2017-18 Budget its intention no longer to control the number of packages by funding level, but instead assign packages to individuals as prioritised by My Aged Care,” said CHA in its pre-Budget submission.

A related issue that should be taken up in this year’s Budget is to step up the release of home care packages, consistent with the policy announced in the 2012-13 Budget, the peak said.

“It is disappointing that since 30 June 2011, the operational provision ratio for home care packages has increased by only 4.9 to 31.9, well below the target ratio of 45.”

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