Aged care reforms: watch this space

The Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, tells a crowd of ACSA Community Care conference delegates that the two-part reform process has only just begun.

By Keryn Curtis

The next five years should be seen as an interim phase along the road to a more comprehensively reformed aged care system, according to the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler.

Speaking in an interview recorded with former ABC broadcaster, Peter Mares, for delegates at the ACSA Community Care Conference in Adelaide yesterday, Mr Butler said he saw the reform process in two phases.

“This is a 10-year reform agenda and there’s the first five years and the second five years. In the first five years we will be [… and] clearing some of the constraints in the current system and then there’ll be a comprehensive review.

“Then we will be in a position as a country to accelerate supply for the second five years or even to uncap supply and go to the full entitlement system.”

Mr Butler said the full entitlement system was the default position and he was hopeful that in five years the system would be “in a better place to go to the default position”.

Asked by Mares, “did this mean community aged care providers just had to grit their teeth and get through the next five years”, the Minister said that the thousands of new high care packages and new intermediate level packages would make a big difference but that the sector must realise that the system is “big and complex” and couldn’t be changed overnight.

“With these four levels of assistance,” asked Mares,  “it’s not clear how people can move smoothly between the different levels. Doesn’t this just retain the set of silos?”

“The Productivity Commission (PC) had a laudable objective,” said Minister Butler, “but you don’t get there overnight. You still need a tiered system. Even the PC thought there needed to be a tiered system as first step before getting to a stage of being smooth and seamless”.

Mr Butler acknowledged that there was a lack of detail in many of the areas of the government’s reform plan but said that presented an opportunity to work with the sector to develop the details.

In response to a question about who would bear the costs of the shift to a consumer-directed care model, commencing with new packages from 1 July, he recommended that providers read the consumer-directed care trials evaluation which was released by the government iin early May.

“These are details that need to be discussed.  But there is also the question of how much of that change is actually structural versus cultural,” Mr Butler said.

In relation to the Gateway, Minister Butler said it was certainly “more than a website and a 1300-line.”

“The Gateway is a sophisticated source of advice with a coordination role dealing with a broader area than aged care including housing, and things like retirement incomes etc. and that role will evolve over time and become more and more sophisticated.

“No, there is no shopfront now but that’s something that will probably evolve in in the future. […] But things need to be stepped out sequentially so they are built to last,” he said.

Tags: acsa, adelaide, community-care-conference, consumer-directed, entitlement, gateway, minister-butler, peter-mares,

1 thought on “Aged care reforms: watch this space

  1. Medicare funded nursing homes – is tax payer funded dollars. All governement payments should outline to business owners of nursing homes a ratio of staff to residents, not leave it to owners discretion. We would then see an increase in quality care and reduce the current shortge (and workcover claims) of staff in residentail care faciities. Also by doing this we are saying “we care about the care staff” increase morale – a rather important status to maintain, considering caring for others is the most important job in the world.
    Also most all other organisations have to follow quotas ie Swimming 1:4 trainer to 4 students. Child care 1:5 etc

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