Aged care’s one-stop shop for consumers has received a boost in funding to help meet the significant and ongoing increase in demand, the government announced in last night’s Federal Budget.
My Aged Care will receive $136.6 million over four years from this July to support the operation of its contact centre, which provides consumers information on ageing, aged care and services online and over the phone.
The volume of calls and correspondence managed by the My Aged Care contact centre will hit an estimated 1,280,000 this financial year – up from 110,000 in 2013–14 – and is expected to increase by 41 per cent in 2016–17 and by 90 per cent by 2019–20 on the current estimate, the government said.
The budget measure increases the capacity of My Aged Care to enable more consumers to access information on aged care and services quickly and make informed choices about their care, according to the budget papers.
Unannounced compliance visits
Elsewhere in funding aimed at supporting consumers, the Government announced it would provide $10.1 million in 2016‑17 to continue unannounced compliance site visits by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency to aged care providers until 30 June 2017.
Unannounced site visits helped ensure that older Australians in aged care homes received optimal care and services and acted as a deterrent to provider non-compliance, the government said in the budget papers.
Funding boost welcomed
Consumer and provider representatives alike have welcomed the increase in funding for My Aged Care.
Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO John Kelly said: “There is significant growth in the number of contacts people are making to My Aged Care and it’s important that people are able to access services when and where they need them without delay.”
Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood said the additional funding would further strengthen My Aged Care. “Easy and timely access to reliable aged care information and effective assessment and referral arrangements are critical to the effectiveness of aged care services,” Mrs Greenwood said.
However, COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said while welcome, the funding boost needed to be accompanied by other major measures to address the core failures in the aged care system. “This includes giving older Australians control over their own residential aged care in the same way they will have control over their home care packages next February. This is a huge missed opportunity,” Mr Yates said.
Alzheimer’s Australia national CEO Carol Bennett welcomed the new funding for both My Aged Care and the unannounced visits to residential aged care. “Alzheimer’s Australia has advocated strongly for improvements to the ‘one stop shop’ that provides a gateway to aged care services and support for informed decision making…Unannounced visits are an important component of generating community confidence that residential aged care services are safe and compliant with the accreditation framework,” Ms Bennett said.
IRT Group Chief Executive Nieves Murray said the funding boost would help make My Aged Care an even better tool to connect older Australians and service providers. “The Government’s My Aged Care website and contact centre is crucial to the success of its reform agenda to empower customers to have greater choice and control over the care services they receive,” Ms Murray said.
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