Aged care stakeholders are calling on all candidates to make a significant financial commitment to aged care in the upcoming federal election.
The 2019 federal election will take place on 18 May, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced last Thursday, just over a week after Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the 2019-20 federal budget (read our story here).
Aged care provider peak bodies say a commitment to action is needed now, not after the aged care royal commission finishes its inquiry.
Among those, the Aged Care Guild CEO Matthew Richter said there needs to a bipartisan long-term plan for aged care to build stability.
“The Guild is calling on all parties to commit to the development of a comprehensive, long-term plan for the future of aged care in Australia, including a clear position in relation to the recommendations of recent reviews and inquiries into the sector, particularly the 2017 Tune Review,” Mr Richter told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Candidates should not be waiting for the royal commission to finish before taking action to make changes in the sector, he said.
Mr Richter also reiterated calls for a dedicated aged care minister in Cabinet to ensure older Australians had a strong voice at the highest level of government.
Leading Aged Care Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney called for a commitment to rapid and fundamental reform to better meet the changing needs of seniors.
“This election campaign is about ensuring that older Australians can access the care they need, when they need it, that this care is adequately funded to reflect the actual costs of delivering high-quality care and services, and that our sector is supported to attract and train a high performing and compassionate workforce,” Mr Rooney said.
Even though the royal commission is working to improve the aged care system, other work is also needed now, he said.
“Clearly, the current government does not have a strategy to do this and neither of the major parties has made commitments to the solutions that older Australians are looking for,” Mr Rooney said.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow told AAA it would soon announce its election priorities along with an approach that could be progressed well before the outcomes of the royal commission were known.
“Our focus will be on ensuring older Australians can get the services they need when they need them and on making sure that service providers remain sustainable and able to support them,” Ms Sparrow said.
“It is essential that the aged care industry takes a leadership role in putting forward positive solutions to tackle the challenges and harness the opportunities that are presented by our ageing nation,” she said.
The aged care sector’s coalition of 52 national organisations, the National Aged Care Alliance re-launched the Australians Deserve to Age Well campaign on 6 April in anticipation of the election and in response to a “disappointing” federal budget.
NACA members, which include consumer groups, providers, unions and health professionals, are calling on all candidates in the upcoming election to commit to “getting aged care right for everyone.”
That includes a commitment to building the aged care workforce by introducing policies and funding to ensure more staff and an appropriate skills mix and increased funding for home care to end the growing waiting list for packages.
Commitment to nurses
A group of nine professional, educational and union organisations representing nurses and midwives has jointly called for all governments to raise the profile and status of the nursing and midwifery professions in an election priorities statement.
“All nurses and midwives should be recognised for their knowledge and skills and be given the ability to practice to the full extent of their education and registration,” the group said in a joint statement.
In aged care the group is calling for:
- standards for staff numbers and skills mix that meet the needs of older people requiring aged care
- nationally consistent educational preparation, qualification and regulation for aged care workers
There needs to be more staff and an appropriate skill mix to deliver quality aged care, said Annie Butler, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, which is one of nine signatories above and a NACA member.
“The reality is that without properly investing in an aged care workforce, where trained workers feel supported and valued the quality of aged care across the board will be compromised,” Ms Butler said.
View the 2019 Federal Election Priorities document here.
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