A group of 20 aged care CEOs from across Australia is currently in Canberra lobbying MPs on the key challenges facing the broad aged services sector ahead of the Federal Budget in May.
The campaign, organised by Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), is meeting with 50 politicians from all sides of politics in a series of meetings that got underway yesterday.
Topping their list is the inconsistent uptake of home care packages – with many providers reporting vacancies in Level 1 and 2 packages, while there is reportedly widespread unmet demand for Level 3 and 4 packages.
“We’re reminding them about the inequities in the means testing processes,” chief executive officer of ACSA Adjunct Professor John Kelly told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“We have been pretty insistent and consistent with reporting that, and it needs to be looked at. The way the means testing is working out, with the co-contribution, people are voting with their feet and we’re seeing vacancies in Levels 1 and 2.
“Our concern is that if they don’t receive the care they need they might end up in acute care at $1,500 a day. So there are some real consequences that need to be examined.”
Adjunct Professor Kelly said that while the government had not shown the peak body its latest data on the uptake of packages, ACSA members nationally were reporting vacancies in Level 1 and 2 packages.
This feedback is consistent with anecdotal reports from providers and consultants nationally, as AAA has previously reported.
Remote issues “will get worse”
Elsewhere the MPs have been told about the need for new models of care and new funding arrangements for remote, rural and regional aged care. “The sooner we begin that dialogue the better, because it is only going to get worse,” said Adjunct Professor Kelly.
The CEOs have also been raising the long-standing issues with the Department of Human Services (DHS) payments system. “We have been as supportive and sympathetic with DHS as possible. We understand the issues with the computer system, and that Cabinet is looking at how they find the money to replace it.
“However, the real issue is that for almost the entire term of this government we have been working patiently with both the government and the department, and yet 18 months later we still have significant cash flow and payment issues. After this length of time, the patience is wearing thin, so either Cabinet makes it a priority and gets on with it, or we’re going to up the ante,” he said.
National housing strategy needed
The fourth issue being raised by the CEOs was the need for a national housing strategy, as proposed in ACSA’s recent position paper.
“We have reminded government that we are pragmatic and recognise this is not an easy subject, with three levels of government involved. It’s possible to throw a lot of money at this area and not see great results,” said Adjunct Professor Kelly.
“But we have asked the Federal Government to look at taking the lead on it, in terms of developing a national strategy. We have reminded them that there are still more than 2,000 Australians aged over 65 who sleep rough and that’s unacceptable.”
Discussing the response from the politicians to the issues raised, Adjunct Professor Kelly said there was much goodwill and understanding. However, he believed that the political appetite for significant action would only come once there was a groundswell of community pressure, led by the baby boomers.
At that point “the politicians will listen to what will be a major community message,” he added.