The federal government has announced $553 million in aged care spending including the release of 10,000 home care packages and increased residential supplements for the homeless and people in regional areas.
The splash-out is a centerpiece of the federal government’s Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which forecasts a return to budget surplus and a raft of new aged care spending initiatives.
The new high-care home care packages will be available within weeks, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Funding will be split across 5,000 level 3 and 5,000 level 4 care packages, providing up to $50,000 per person in services each year.
“We understand that older Australians prefer to receive support and services in their own home and live independently for as long as possible,” Mr Morrison said in a joint statement with aged care minister Ken Wyatt and health minister Greg Hunt.
The government will also provide $56.4 million to reduce the daily maximum fees payable to providers by up to $400 a year for level one packages, $200 a year for level two packages and $100 a year for a level three packages.
Money will also be invested in residential aged care for older Australians in rural and remote areas and those who have been affected by homelessness, Mr Morrison said.
The viability supplement for residential aged care providers in rural and remote areas will be increased by 30 per cent through an investment of $101.9 million and the homeless supplement will also get a 30 per cent boost of $9 million.
Meanwhile, $98 million will go towards increasing payments for GPs to attend residential aged care homes.
Industry welcomes funding but says more is needed
The announcement has been received by industry as a positive step forward but the nation’s peak bodies agree that the initiatives don’t go far enough to alleviate current critical shortages in home care.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) says the funding commitments are a recognition by the government of the difficulties many older Australians face finding appropriate care, and home care in particular.
However, while the commitment to fund the additional home care packages will alleviate pressure in the short term “home care remains an area of acute need still with over 120,000 older Australians waiting to receive care at their level or without care at all,” CEO Pat Sparrow said.
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) echoed the sentiment and took heart in the government’s decision to make aged care funding a strategic MYEFO priority.
“It is clear that the need to provide adequate care and support for older Australians is an issue of national importance and will be a key issue in the lead up to the federal election,” CEO Sean Rooney said.
He said funding to bring forward the release of extra home care places was welcome, but much more was needed to assist those currently on the home care waiting list.
New packages fall short of what consumers hoped for
Consumer advocacy group COTA Australia welcomed the funds and the fact that almost 50 per cent would go towards additional home care packages.
CEO Ian Yates said COTA also welcomed the reduction in the maxium fee payable by consumers for level 1 to 3 packages and the increase in the government contribution by the same amount.
However he said the 10,000 higher level packages were only a third of the 30,000 COTA is calling for.
“This a good step, a welcome step, but one that will still leave too many older Australians that the government has itself assessed as in need of high level care at home, without that care,” he said in a statement.
“Overall this package of measures is very welcome, but still falls short of a comprehensive response to fixing the aged care challenges of today, while the Royal Commission deals with the longer term.”
The rural viability supplement would provide extra funds for more than 550 services providing around 13,500 residential places, Mr Yates said, while the homeless supplement would assist 42 residential services supporting 1,700 residents.
The economic measures announced were unlikely to improve the financial struggles many aged care providers are currently facing, according to an analysis of the fine print by aged care accounting experts Stewart Brown, who said financial performance results for September, due to be published on Thursday, showed many providers are continuing to struggle, and the MYEFO measures were unlikely to shift the trend.
You can ready the full story here.
MYEFO 2018 at a glance
- – Total spending on aged care expected to reach $23.5 billion in 2021-22
- – $287.3 million over three years for 5,000 level 3 and 5,000 level 4 home care packages
- – $56.4 million to reduce the maximum basic daily fee service providers can charge
- – $111.2 million to increase aged care rural viability and homeless supplements by 30 per cent
- – $98 million for GPs to attend residential aged care homes
- – $81.7 million to improve services, regulatory arrangements and workforce arrangements
- – $104 million over four years for the aged care royal commission
- – $17.2 million over two years for the Aged Care Quality Agency and Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to support the royal commission
- – $0.6 million over for years for a national elder abuse hotline
- – $2.1 million for a national register for Enduring Powers of Attorney
You can find the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook here.