$1.4B for aged care tech

The bulk of the budget’s $2.2 billion package for aged care will fund digital infrastructure while a quarter goes to 24,000 additional home care packages.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ third budget includes a $2.2 billion “quality aged care” package with more than half of that paying to upgrade technology systems and digital infrastructure across the sector.

The $1.4 billion tech measure includes $1.2 billion over five years to sustain current systems and support the introduction of the new Aged Care Act confirmed for 1 July 2025, plus $175 million over two years for ICT for the new Support at Home Program and Single Assessment System, budget documents show.

Elsewhere for aged care, the 2024-25 budget delivered on Tuesday 14 May includes:

  • $531 million for an additional 24,100 Home Care Packages in 2024–25 in a bid to help reduce wait times
  • $111 million over four years to increase in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s regulatory capabilities in response to the recommendations of David Tune’s Independent Capability Review, and to implement the regulatory framework that will underpin the new Aged Care Act
  • $37 million for the My Aged Care Contact Centre to reduce call‑waiting times for people seeking information and access to aged care
  • $88 million for workforce initiatives to attract nurses and other workers into aged care.

The workforce funding above includes $22 million over three years to extend the Home Care Workforce Support Program for an additional three years to grow the number of home care workers in regional, rural and remote areas where workforce shortages are the most acute and extending better career pathways for nurses in aged care.

The Budget shows the Government is diverting unspent funds from the Commonwealth Home Support
Program over five years from 2023–24 to other sub-programs within aged care services. That saving includes $16 million this financial year according to the table below.

Source: Budget Paper No.2

The Government has also committed to funding the latest increase in the award wage for direct and indirect aged care workers once the Fair Work Commission makes its final determination.

“We anticipate the final decision around mid-year,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler and Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said in a joint statement issued on budget night.

In question is whether aged care workers will receive the increase in full on 1 July this year as the unions are demanding – or in stages from 2025 at the earliest as proposed by the government. A delay supported by Aged & Community Care Providers Association in its recent submission to the FWC.

Whenever enacted, this increase will build on the $11.3 billion already funded to support the interim 15 per cent wage increase for aged care workers that came into play last July.

Within the announced measures is $11.8 million over three years to implement the new Aged Care Act, including governance activities, program management and the extension of the Aged Care Approvals Round for residential aged care.

The ministers highlighted the new rights-based Aged Care Act as “a once-in-a-generation reform that will put older people at the centre of the aged care system”. They also talked about the anticipated response to the final report of the taskforce, and while the budget confirms a 1 July 2025 start date for the new Act, the ministers shed no light on the timing of that response.

“[The Act] will also support the Government’s response to the Aged Care Taskforce. Consultation is continuing on the details of the Act and the Taskforce response,” they said.

Also within this this budget’s measures is:

  • $10.8 million over two years from to extend programs to improve palliative care outcomes and skills
  • $7.8 million over two years to extend funding to aged care service providers in thin markets under the new funding model.

Seniors health system measures

Older people are also set to benefit from boarder health sector measures in this budget. This includes $882 million for the states and territories to deliver:

  • programs that help older patients avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and to be discharged into a more appropriate care situation sooner if they are admitted
  • hospital outreach services in the community and more virtual care services
  • training to upskill residential aged care workers to care for older people with cognitive decline and complex care.

Plus there’s $190 million for the Transition Care Program to help seniors recover from a hospital stay with short-term care. 

And $32 million for the Specialist Dementia Care Program to support people living with dementia to transition from hospital to aged care services and fund clinical in-reach services. This measure also supports Australian Dementia Network researchers to prepare  the health system for promising new dementia diagnostic and treatment options.

There’s also $900,000 for the already-announced measure supporting community pharmacists to administer free vaccines to aged care residents under the National Immunisation Program.

“The investments in the 2024–25 Budget reinforce the foundations and connections that underpin quality aged care, with more Home Care Packages, more workforce support, a regulator with enhanced capabilities, and stronger links between aged care and the rest of the health system,” Mr Butler and Ms Wells said.

Read next: Budget 2024: stakeholders react

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Tags: anika wells, Budget 2024, digital infrastructure, home care packages, mark butler,

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