Aged care peaks want more measures to address future demand for services and provider sustainability while the nurses’ union slams the budget for failing to deliver improvements to staffing.
Mental health services, the development of technologies for people living with dementia, 14,000 new home care packages and improved palliative care for aged care residents are among the measures aimed at seniors in last night’s budget.
These initiatives have been welcomed as positive steps but peak bodies have reiterated the need to ensure long-term solutions for an ageing population.
The Aged Care Guild, which represents major for-profit residential providers, said that until funding for future demand was resolved the outlook for the sector would remain unstable.
“As our ageing population grows we need a bipartisan solution to this problem: how will this country properly fund aged care into the future in a way that meets the needs and expectations of elderly Australians and their families?” said the guild’s interim CEO Lee Hill.
Similarly, Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the budget measures were a step in the right direction but it failed to map out a plan to meet the sector’s longer-term needs.
“This budget does not adequately address the growing complexity of residents’ needs, changing consumer and community expectations, and rising operating costs, which are all placing increasing financial pressure on residential care providers and the overall aged care system.”
Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said further discussion with government and community was paramount to best provide care services needed in the future.
“The government’s measures for aged care in the budget are practical but our view is they should form part of a longer-term commitment to the sustainable provisioning of aged care services into the future,” Ms Sparrow said.
Ian Yates, chief executive of consumer peak COTA Australia, welcomed the aged care measures which he said would enhance consumer control.
“We strongly welcome the government’s in-principle decision to put residential beds in the hands of consumers and funding the development of a plan to achieve this. We need a commitment to a specific date for this change at latest by next year’s budget,” Mr Yates said.
He said it was the first budget package that took a proactive and “life-cycle approach” to ageing.
“The challenge now is to make sure that this is not a one off, so we will be asking the government to commit to an ageing strategy that will tie the budget measures together,” Mr Yates said.
Aged care staffing
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation said the budget measures would have no impact on safe care for residents as nothing has been done to ensure enough nurses and care workers were employed.
“This chronic staffing crisis has led to dangerous workloads for nurses and care workers resulting, too often, in missed care for vulnerable nursing home residents, yet the Government is still not prepared to guarantee safe staffing levels in residential aged care,” the union’s assistant federal secretary Annie Butler said.
Ms Butler argued that to achieve guaranteed staffing levels in aged care, funding must be tied to care provision through mandated minimum staff ratios.
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