LASA has launched its campaign for the federal election calling for legislated maximum home care wait times to fix the “human tragedy in home care”.
The campaign, themed I Care for Aged Care, also calls for a Minister for Older Australians and Aged Care in Cabinet and demands more funding for residential care and workforce growth.
It supports a pay rise for workers, but only if there is “a commensurate increase in funding”.
CEO Sean Rooney launched the campaign at LASA’s Queensland State Conference on the Gold Coast on Wednesday, saying making the aged care system better must be a priority for all political parties and candidates in the 2019 election.
“In home care it is unacceptable that more than 120,000 older Australians are unable to access the care they have been assessed as needing,” he said in his address to delgates.
LASA says unmet demand amounts to up to $9 billion a year, and the queue means older Australians are waiting more than 12 months for care, resulting in “unnecessary suffering, avoidable admissions to hospital and premature entry into residential care, and potentially reduced life expectancy”.
$500 million for home care packages
Central to its home care platform LASA wants the introduction of maximum three month wait times and $500 million a year in additional funding until times fall to an “acceptable” level.
The industry group recommends phasing in the maximum wait benchmark incrementally to “smooth the costs of meeting care needs and reducing the queue”.
LASA also says people should have the option of using their home equity to finance care and those with less means, or who don’t own homes, should leapfrog to the front of the queue.
Providers under pressure
Home care providers are also under financial pressure with earnings almost halving in the last two years to just $3.50 per client per day, the peak says.
“The number of home care providers has nearly doubled to meet demand but there are limited package for them to deliver,” LASA says.
LASA is also calling for a voluntary register for aged care workers to be used by the sector “in anticipation of a possible mandatory scheme coming out of the royal commission” and wants to see personal care workers put on a priority list for skilled migrants.
The launch of LASA’s home care priorities comes ahead of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety resuming next week, when the focus will turn to home care.
“LASA welcomes the fact that next week’s hearings of the Royal Commission will focus on home care,” Mr Rooney said.
Voters are tipped to go to the polls in early-mid May with the federal government expected to call an election after it hands down the Budget on April 2.