The Federal Budget will contain funding for 30,000 home care packages and residential daily living services, a leading aged care economist predicts.
Grant Corderoy, senior partner at accounting firm StewartBrown, told an industry briefing in Sydney on Tuesday night that as far as aged care funding is concerned next week’s budget will have “more than we’ve seen before but less than we’d probably like to see”.
Part of that will be funding for more home care packages, he said.
“I expect there will probably be 30,000 new home care packages,” Mr Corderoy said.
The government has promised to respond to the recommendations of the aged care royal commission in the May 11 budget, and there’s speculation the sector can anticipate a $10 billion cash splash over the next four years.
Mr Corderoy said he hoped the government would boost the Basic Daily Fee, which is supposed to pay for day-to-day or hotel services such as meals, cleaning and laundry, by $10 per resident a day as recommended by the royal commission.
But he is not confident it will be a separate funding component. Instead, he thinks the Government will provide a lump sum payment similar to its COVID response measure, which provided two payments of $900 per resident in metropolitan aged care facilities and $1,350 per resident in other locations.
“What I think will happen in the budget, is they’ll include this in a package of gap funding,” Mr Corderoy said.
Workforce and prudential regulation
If the government takes the royal commission’s recommendations to heart there’s also likely to be money for workforce and prudential regulation in the budget, Mr Corderoy said.
“I think there’ll be money set aside for training and recruitment,” he said. “We can’t kick that can down the road, because the more home care packages that are released the less staff we’ve got to provide the care.”
Mr Corderoy said the current 28 to 30 per cent turnover in the aged care workforce was a significant cost going forward and also adds to the overall agency costs.
One thing we should avoid in the future is one funding system for all. Regional, rural and remote have different characteristics,” he said.
Mr Corderoy questioned claims the home care waiting list is at 100,000 – a figure that’s refused to budge for three years – saying it could be closer to 50,000.
He said about 26,000 of those in the queue had chosen not to take up their funding and some 30,000 are being funded at a lower than assessed level.
Given the amount of unspent funds being held, it is likely the latter group is actually being funded at the right level, he said.
“I’m a sceptic when it comes to the home care prioritisation queue, I think the actual queue’s around 50,000-60,000” Mr Corderoy said.
“Why is this important? If we get another 30,000 we can start to divert the attention back to residential care rather than just to home care.”
A new aged care program, single assessment required
Mr Corderoy said he backed the aged care royal commission’s recommendation for a system governor to implement a new aged care program.
Under the proposal, a new aged care program would combine the existing Commonwealth Home Support Program, Home Care Packages Program and residential aged care program, including respite care and short-term restorative care, with a single entry point.
He also supports the recommendation for a single comprehensive assessment process, which would replace the Aged Care Assessment Program and the Regional Assessment Services with a single assessment.
“My view is unless we really work on these two recommendations and get one program, we’re always going to get disjointed reform,” Mr Corderoy said.
Aged care levy in question
While home care packages are likely to be one of the headline budget announcements, it’s unclear whether the government will take up Commissioner Lynelle Briggs’ recommendation for an aged care levy to fund spending.
In the final report, Commissioner Briggs said the government should introduce legislation by July 2022 to establish an “aged care improvement levy” of a flat rate of 1 per cent of taxable personal income, but media reports citing senior government sources have suggested the recommendation will be ignored.
Last year’s budget allocated $1.6 billion for 23,000 new home care packages and Prime Minister Scott Morrison committed an extra $452.2 million in March as a down payment in response to the royal commission report.
Advocacy groups weigh in
In April a coalition of aged care provider groups, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration, called on the government to use the budget to prioritise recommendations that will give seniors the maximum benefit in the quickest amount of time, including stumping up funding to cut the home care waiting list.
Meanwhile on Thursday the National Aged Care Alliance, representing 54 peak organisations of providers, health professionals, unions and consumers, released a statement calling on the federal government to take immediate action on a list of recommendations.
Clearing the home care waiting list and establishing a new care at home program topped the list, followed by the establishment of an implementation taskforce to deliver the royal commission’s recommendations and drafting a new human-rights based Aged Care Act.
Read the full statement here.
The Grattan Institute estimates that the government needs to spend an additional $9.8 billion a year on the royal commission’s recommended aged care reform measures.
Mr Corderoy warned that the budget will only be a quick fix.
“This is just a budget to fix today’s circumstance we need to have money set aside for reform going forward,” he said.
This story first ran on Community Care Review.