Providers all over Australia worked hard to raise aged care as an election issue. Now the focus is to ensure MPs support both a Senate inquiry and disallowance motions, writes Darren Mathewson.
The on-the-ground campaigning by ACSA and our members during the federal election had a significant impact leading to the support of key independents including Senators Nick Xenophon and Jacqui Lambie, and Andrew Wilkie in the House of Representatives. Their ongoing support will be crucial to the future influence of our campaign.
While there was some agreement from the major parties on the workforce strategy and support from the Labor Party and the Greens to examine the impact of the home care reforms on the sector, neither the Coalition nor the Labor Party promised to halt the funding cuts during the election campaign.
Those we care for just cannot withstand the magnitude of the cuts proposed in the recent Budget. The Ansell Strategic Report commissioned by UnitingCare Australia, ACSA and Catholic Health Australia released just prior to the election confirms an 11 per cent cut to aged care funding.
Over the past weeks we engaged with every candidate in the upcoming election and received a great deal of support.
In our meetings with Senate candidates we were asked to assist with introducing a Senate Inquiry into aged care funding and we gained strong support to put “disallowance motions” to prevent the legislation to introduce the 2016-17 Budget cuts from commencing.
The first tranche of changes were proposed at the MYEFO in late 2015 to change certain scores in the CHC scoring matrix from 1 July 2016 to 31 December 2016. These are for new appraisals or reappraisals of existing residents – implemented by the “Classification Amendment (CHC Domain Scores) Principles 2016” dated 6 May 2016, and taking effect from 1 July 2016. These can be disallowed by a member of parliament within 15 parliamentary sitting days.
The second tranche are the changes proposed in the 2016/17 Budget. These have a much greater impact on funding with an average loss of about 11 per cent, according to the Ansell Report. The changes include:
- A new redesigned CHC scoring matrix from 1 January 2017 expected to be implemented by an amendment to the Classification Principles 2014 which can be disallowed within 15 sitting days.
- Changes to scores and eligibility requirements for certain CHC procedures in Question 12 of ACFI – the changes to which will be made by an amendment to the ACFI User Guide and by an amendment to the Classification Principles 2014 which can also be disallowed within 15 sitting days.
Crossbench Senators have also offered to introduce a Senate inquiry into aged care funding. There needs to be a proper examination of the impact of the proposed changes to ACFI before any changes are made. We will be asking all the elected parliamentarians to support both the Senate Inquiry and the disallowance motions.
According to the latest figures from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, health expenditure was estimated at $155 billion. Yet, $1.2 billion cut in the 2016/17 Budget to provide for the complex health care needs of old, frail Australians is seen as somehow excessive and not valid.
If we fail to take good care of older Australians, at home and in residential aged care facilities, with a workforce equipped for the challenges, the costs associated with their care will balloon as they are forced into mainstream health and medical services.
It is vital that we establish a stable, predictable funding system in the interests of everyone – older people, government, providers and staff.
Darren Mathewson is acting CEO of Aged & Community Services Australia.