The appointment of a new minister responsible for aged care comes as the sector eyes the next stage of reforms and awaits the release of several key governmental reviews
Aged care finds itself with a new minister at a pivotal time, as the Coalition Government has signalled its intentions to ramp up reforms to the sector, while many of the measures from 2012 remain a work in progress.
In what has now become his last sector address as the minister responsible for aged care, Senator Mitch Fifield told providers at the ACSA/IAHSA conference earlier this month that he wanted to get rid of ACAR altogether, and move towards consumer-directed care in residential aged care. He also confirmed that the Aged Care Sector Committee was developing a roadmap for the next stages of reform and was due to provide its advice to government by the end of the year.
The new Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, clearly takes on a busy aged care agenda. However, his appointment also comes as stakeholders await the release of several key governmental reviews, and the resolution of some unfinished business related to the current suite of reforms.
1. Release government’s workforce audit
Top of the list is the audit of government-funded workforce programs, which was expected to be released by mid-2015. Being undertaken by consulting firm Health Outcomes International, the audit began in October 2014.
Speaking to AAA in January Senator Fifield confirmed the audit would inform the development of an aged care workforce development strategy to “inform future funding priorities.”
To that end, the audit will also be critical to determining the future of the Aged Care Workforce Fund, which provides $220 million over four years to support a range of measures including fully-funded VET training for aged care workers, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Aged Care Employment Program, Dementia Care Essentials training and the Aged Care Education and Training Incentive Program.
2. Commence dementia response teams
Also missing in action is the Federal Government’s new Severe Behaviour Response Teams, which were slated to commence this month.
The teams will target residents with very severe and extreme behaviours of dementia and will offer crisis management to facilities and follow-up assistance such as training and up-skilling of staff.
They were a response to the controversial former dementia supplement, which was axed by the government in the middle of last year after it blew out its budget 10-fold.
The original mid-year start date for the response teams was pushed back to September, with organisations given six weeks to submit their applications for the tender.
3. Release the evaluation into CDC
Mixed reports about the success of the implementation of CDC and its adoption by consumers abound, in the absence of the official review into the program, which has not been released.
In April 2014 KPMG was engaged by DSS to conduct an evaluation of the implementation of the Home Care Packages, including the introduction of CDC. The evaluation was intended to identify any operational or policy issues requiring consideration as the CDC model was rolled out, the government said.
In July, Senator Fifield told Community Care Review that the evaluation was expected to be finalised by the end of the month and then provided to the government in August for consideration.
While the report has not been publicly released, representatives of both DSS and KPMG have discussed its findings at industry events, suggesting there are significant issues with the rollout of CDC nationally.
Earlier this month Nicki Doyle, a director in health, ageing and human services at KPMG told a conference that some home care package providers were struggling to adapt their business models to be truly consumer directed and still operated service offerings that were largely menu-driven.
In March, Shona McQueen, branch manager with DSS, told a sector briefing that early findings from the evaluation showed that a quarter of providers were yet to consider changing their services and systems to a CDC approach.
4. Complete and release dementia stocktake
Written submissions to the government’s stocktake of dementia programs and services funded by DSS closed on 31 May, but there is still no word on when the final analysis will be released.
According to the government, the stocktake will ensure “national coordination, integration and effectiveness of dementia support programs”.
Concerns had been raised by dementia advocates that the review could result in possible funding cuts. Some of the programs in its remit include the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services (DBMAS), the National Dementia Support Program, Dementia Training Study Centres and HACC dementia support services.
However, in an interview with AAA in May, Senator Fifield gave an assurance that the stocktake was not a cost savings exercise. “We’re not looking to reduce funding as a result of the stocktake of dementia programs,” he said.
5. Get WA on board with national home support program
Mr Porter will need to reach out to his former colleagues in the Western Australian Government to get agreement on the transfer of state-run Home and Community Care (HACC) services to the Commonwealth, as part of the national Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).
Along with Victoria, WA retained control of its HACC services as agreement could not be reached during discussions with the then Federal Government for a federal takeover in 2011.
However, the Victorian Government last week signed an agreement with the Commonwealth for the transfer of its HACC services, meaning Victoria will join the CHSP from 1 July 2016 and the Commonwealth will guarantee current levels of funding to existing providers over a three-year transition period.
In the interests of coast-to-coast consistency, and for the CHSP to live up to its name, stakeholders will be looking for Mr Porter to achieve the same result with his home state.
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that stakeholders were awaiting detail of the second Ministerial Dementia Forum. AAA can now confirm that stakeholders have been advised the forum is to be held on 6 November.
Want to have your say on this story? Comment below. Send us your news and tip-offs to firstname.lastname@example.org
Subscribe to Australian Ageing Agenda magazine (includes Technology Review)