Successful applications for the accommodation supplement for new and significantly refurbished facilities received before 31 July will have their payments backdated to 1 July, Assistant Minister Mitch Fifield has confirmed to Australian Ageing Agenda.
The government’s accommodation supplement is scheduled to increase from 1 July for new aged care facilities that are completed or significantly refurbished from 20 April 2012, however the application process is still not available.
Following public consultation, which closed in January, the Department of Social Services (DSS) last week issued draft application forms for comment on Tuesday (17 June) with responses due by 10am on the Thursday (19 June).
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Patrick Reid wrote to DSS on Friday seeking confirmation the department would apply the same short timeframe to finalising the supplement application process, which would make it available no later than 9.30am on Monday 23 June.
There is no confirmation as yet on when the forms will be available, but a spokesperson for DSS told AAA on Monday: “The application process will commence as soon as possible after the subordinate legislation which gives effect to the Higher Accommodation Supplement is made.”
Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield told AAA the government was not “rushing the modelling and budgeting process for the accommodation supplement” because it wanted to avoid a situation similar to the dementia supplement, the budget for which had blown out beyond original estimates (Read that AAA story).
“I recognise government consideration of the sustainability of the supplement has slowed down the application process. In light of this, I have decided that all eligible applications received before 31 July will be able to have their supplement payments backdated to 1 July 2014,” Senator Fifield said.
Mr Reid said he rejected Assistant Minister Fifield’s explanation that the Government did not want to rush the modelling and budgeting process for the accommodation supplement.
“They have already announced the quantum and what the requirements are so doesn’t it mean the modelling is already in play and all they are doing now is black letter law and a form,” Mr Reid told AAA.
He said that the Minister’s commitment to backdate eligible applications for the accommodation supplement has eased pressure on providers needing to have everything ready by 1 July, but that continually being told things were going to be available soon was frustrating.
“We are five-and-a-half days away from the start of this legislation and we still haven’t seen the final packages of legislation, and we are having to pressure the government and pressure the minister to provide us information around things like significant refurbishment.”
There was a general lack of understanding within government of the operational impacts it was causing, he said.
“I am being told by ministers’ advisors and the department that there is enough information within the exposure documents for people to plan for their business. But I am saying until it is black letter law would you yourself go ahead and plan to provide services to clients on exposure drafts?”
He said plenty of businesses had been caught out in the past and cited the cancelling of the former government’s Home Insulation Program as an example situation.
It was similar with the payroll tax where providers would have made forward estimates in their service planning budgets, which would now be affected by the supplement being removed from January, he said.