Aged care stakeholders praise budget

Aged care providers, workers and consumers have welcomed this addtional $3.9 billion for the sector in this week’s Federal Budget.

Aged care providers have welcomed this week’s federal budget for its commitment to implement royal commission reforms but have emphasised the remaining shortfalls in funding and workforce.

Labor’s first budget in nine years – handed down by Treasurer Jim Chalmers on Tuesday evening – included an additional $3.9 billion for the aged care sector. And while no dollars have been assigned to a wage increase, the government has reiterated to funding that once the Fair Work Commission case concludes.

Headline measures include $2.5 billion to pay for mandated registered nurses and care minutes in residential aged care, $810 million for residential and home care providers for Covid-related costs and $312 million for ICT improvements (read more here).

Provider peak body Aged and Community Care Providers Association has welcomed the budget’s investment and acknowledgement that decades of underfunding will take time to fix.

ACCPA chief executive officer Tom Symondson said the $3.9-billion package in the budget represented an important step in fixing the aged care system and realising the vision set out by the royal commission.

“We also look forward to further investment in the coming months as government delivers on its commitment to fund the outcomes of the Fair Work Commission work value case, and the inaugural recommendations of the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority, which should take us further down the road of recognising the true cost of delivering high-quality aged care services to older Australians,” said Mr Symondson.

Tom Symondson

However, he emphasised the ongoing pressures facing the aged care sector including workforce shortages, the pandemic, and the legacy of decades of underfunding.

“And the pressure is not just financial – we have welcomed funding for additional care minutes but there is no escaping the fact that it requires us to recruit thousands of extra staff in the context of record low unemployment and a global shortage of nurses.

“To give older Australians the care they deserve, government and providers need to work together to fix current funding shortages and workforce shortfalls,” Mr Symondson said.

Commitment to pay rise ‘changes the negative narrative’

Catholic aged care provider peak Catholic Health Australia called the additional aged care investment a down payment on future aged care reforms and the election commitments of the Albanese Government.

Jason Kara

On the government’s recommitment to fund the future Fair Work Commission pay decision in full, CHA aged care director Jason Kara said: “This changes the negative narrative for the aged care sector and is the first step to improved attraction and retention of aged care staff as we begin to recognise their value in their take-home pay.”

These aged care reforms will be expensive, and CHA will be monitoring their impact closely, he said. “We look forward to seeing real investment in the next budget supported by genuine collaboration moving forward.”

Aged care, cost of living relief to benefit workers, says Union

Annie Butler, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation – which represents nurses, midwives and care workers – called the significant investment a first-step in fixing the troubled aged care sector by providing support for staff ratios and other measures to ensure safe, quality care for aged care residents.

Annie Butler

“We commend the government for recognising the need to prioritise funding for health and aged care in the budget, particularly during these difficult economic times,” Ms Butler said.

She also said the measures to improve wages and provide cost-of-living relief would benefit workers and help address workforce shortages in the aged care sector.

Those measures include the government supporting increased pay for women in low‑paid sectors, including through the introduction of a statutory equal remuneration principle to reduce barriers to pay equity claims.

The government is also investing:

  • $4.7 billion over four years to make early childhood education and care more affordable
  • $531.6 million over four years to expand the Paid Parental Leave scheme
  • $350 million over five years to deliver up to 20,000 affordable dwellings under a housing accord with states and territories
  • cutting the cost of medicines to save around 3.6 million Australians more than $190 million in out‑of‑pocket costs.

“The government’s plan for boosting wages in female-dominated industries, improving gender equity and addressing cost-of-living pressures, will provide a platform to finally commence reforming aged care by recruiting and retaining nurses and workers, so desperately needed across the sector,” Ms Butler said.

“Nurses, midwives and carers will also benefit from increased access to childcare subsidies and the extension of paid parental leave to 26 weeks and more affordable housing for these essential workers,” she said.

‘Financial flesh on the bones’ of commitments

Consumer peak body Council on the Ageing called the budget measures a strong commitment to aged care reform. The budget puts “financial flesh on the bones of the government’s election commitments,” said COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates.

Ian Yates

“Self-evidently, much is being done and will be done in aged care reform with the nearly $4 billion committed in this budget, with aged care wage increases still to come. We congratulate not only Ministers Butler and Wells on their hard work so far, but also the evident commitment of the Prime Minister and Treasurer to this reform process being given priority,” he said.

However, more remains to be done to fully implement the royal commission recommendations and achieve a world-class aged care system all Australians can have confidence in, said Mr Yates.

“In the lead up to the next budget COTA will be strongly engaging on matters still under consideration, such as improving services for people with severe disability, and ensuring that the new Support at Home program really delivers for older people and their families.”

Missed opportunity on easing ‘workforce crisis’

While pleased to see the federal government deliver on its election promises, seniors advocacy body National Seniors Australia said it was disappointed the budget missed the opportunity to help fix urgent workforce shortages.

Ian Henschke

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke hoped to see additional measures to boost workforce participation.

“The $4,000 income credit to the Work Bonus announced after the Jobs and Skills Summit was a good first step, but the government needs to follow through and give pensioners and employers greater certainty. Stopping the increase to the Work Bonus in June 2023 will not do that,” he said.

“The workforce crisis in the care sector could be eased by allowing pensioners to work, and work more, without being financially penalised. National Seniors Australia wants to work with the government and we think a stronger incentive is needed,” Mr Henschke said.

“For sectors desperate for workers such as health, aged, disability and child care we need a full income exemption to fill shortages. A two-year trial is the next step. And it should happen in the May 2023 budget.

Letting pensioners work in the care sector without being penalised is a win for government, the economy and pensioners, he said. “There are always things government can do to improve peoples’ lives that won’t cost money. This is only one.”

Next priority must focus on in-home care, says OPAN

The Older Persons Advocacy Network has welcomed additional measures for residential aged care but called for them to be accompanied by others to address issues across in-home care.

“We are delighted to see the Australian Government not only follow through on its $2.5-billion election promises but exceed them,” OPAN CEO Craig Gear said. “This budget funds the important reforms that are urgently needed to deliver better aged care services to older Australians, including 24/7 nursing, increased care minutes and better food in residential aged care.”

Craig Gear

But they must now be accompanied by measures to address the significant issues across in-home care that often result in older people entering residential aged care prematurely, he said.

“A flexible, appropriately funded Support at Home program, developed in consultation with older people, is crucial. Interim measures must be put in place to ensure older people don’t fall through the gaps.”

Mr Gear welcomed the commitment to consult with the people who will use the home care system as part of $23-million budget measure to support implementation of the reform.

He also welcomed the additional funding for a dedicated Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. “A responsive regulation system that addresses older people’s concerns and complaints in a timely and proportionate manner is a key driver of quality care,” said Mr Gear.

He also added support for funding an Inspector-General of Aged Care to “address the end-to-end issues in aged care” and look “to longer-term system improvement” and the government’s continued commitment to funding higher wages for aged care staff.

“Older people have the right to high-quality aged care – you only get that with a well-paid and a well-trained workforce”

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Tags: ACCPA, anmf, Annie Butler, budget-2022, cha, cota-australia, craig gear, federal-budget, ian-henschke, ian-yates, Jason-Kara, national-seniors, opan, Tom Symondson,

2 thoughts on “Aged care stakeholders praise budget

  1. I cannot understand the strong support for these policy responses from sector leaders. Providers still have no improvement on their $9.8b p.a. funding cuts per Royal Commission. The new mandatory minutes regulations and associated funding will leave providers further in the red per Stewart Brown. We are being actively defunded and yet this draws applause.

    Aged care subsidy was indexed by 1.6% when inflation runs at 6% and NDIS receives 9% indexation.

    The Wage decision could have been implemented immediately by the govt. They chose to wait 6 months to buy more time.

    The aged care sector needs to be far tougher on the govt and stop accepting half-measures.

  2. This will not improve the aged care services at all.
    1) 75,000 workers shortage ( worker means , those have compassion and willingness to work at least 68 hours fortnight ). Not the center link mob
    2) Astronomical cost increase in electricity and gas price ( 200 percent to 300 percent)
    3) Inflation is at highest ( 7 percent)
    4) Food price has gone up
    5) Increase in superannuation and other wages related liabilities
    6) Our sector has been underfunded for 6 years in a row.
    7) Quality of newer staff is very low
    8) to rebuild the new facility ( significant refurbishment ) has gone up by at least 50 percent
    9) providers can not pass these cost to consumer as other business can.
    10 ) Government does not want TO PAY the actual cost of care and services.
    11) union mafia will make it more difficult to run the business operation
    12) Cost of managing compliance has gone up
    13) overworked staff and over compliance requirement will kill this sectors
    Aged care sector has been caught between two parties who have no intention to fix the sector , just trying to please their vote base . and lots of misinformation given by so called sector expert.

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