The federal government has come under pressure for its “woeful” inactivity on releasing home care package data at a key aged care conference in Sydney.
In a keynote addresses to stakeholders at the Aged Care Reform after the 2018 Federal Budget conference on Wednesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison said major steps had been taken towards reform, including a $1.6 billion commitment to respond to the demand for more home packages.
But questions were raised about the government’s delay in releasing data on how many people were currently waiting for packages.
Opposition spokeswoman on ageing Julie Collins said data for the March quarter should have been available almost two months ago.
More than 100,000 were waiting as of December last year, she said.
“That is latest figure we have. We don’t have any new figures because the government is sitting on it,” she said.
“We were told by the department in estimates that this data is usually released within two months at the end of the quarter, so you would have thought maybe early June.
“But the minister tweeted at me last week that we’re not releasing the data until August and one would have to ask why.
“How are we going to have reform … if we can’t be upfront about what’s going on?”
Jeff Feibig, general manager of strategy and partnership at the not-for-profit provider ACH Group, said the current situation was “woeful” and was making it difficult for providers to plan ahead.
“You’re expecting organisations to make decision about their future plans, their future growth strategies, their infrastructure strategies without the data to support what some might call a free market approach,” he said in a comment from the floor.
Acting health department deputy secretary of ageing and aged care Lisa Studdert said it was up to the government to release the data.
“It’s a decision for government when that occurs,” she said.
David Tune, author of the 2017 Legislated Aged Care Review and the 2016 Aged Care Roadmap, said the budget had failed to address continued investment in the home care system and the government needed to reassess its planning ratios.
“The government currently has an aged care planning ratio which is based on achieving 125 places mixed between residential and home care per 1000 people aged 70 or more,” he said.
“They’ll meet that but we need to go higher. I’d like to see as we move forward, some consideration of this aged care planning ratio and whether where we get to … is going to do the job for us into the future. I fear the answer is no.”
Mr Morrison acknowledged there was more work to be done on meeting demand for home care but defended the budget response, saying an additional 20,000 packages had been funded since the December budget update.
“We think that is an excellent start in addressing this issue,” he said.
“In this year’s budget we made a very sizable commitment … particularly in the high level care packages.
“There’s more work to be done there but that work requires the economy to continue to strengthen so that we can continue to deliver on reliving that need in the community.”
Australian Ageing Agenda is a media partner of the conference.