Budget 2024 watchlist

The minister hints at forthcoming news on the home care program while media reports indicate a response to taskforce recommendations is out.

Cost of living pressures are likely to be central to this month’s Federal budget but questions remain over what measures will focus on addressing the aged care sector’s challenges.

Many in the sector are eager to hear updated details on the new Aged Care Act and home care program, confirmation of funding for the next pay rise for aged care workers, and the government’s response to the recommendations of the Aged Care Taskforce.

Commentary this week from Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells has hinted there could be news for the sector in relation to home care within the volumes handed down by treasurer Jim Chalmers next Tuesday or soon after.

Anika Wells

At a press conference on Wednesday Ms Wells quippedYou’re asking me to take my life into your hands to pre-announce ahead of the treasurer having that privilege on Tuesday” in response to questions from a journalist about aged care measures in the budget and funding increases for things like Home Care Packages.

But she added: “You won’t be surprised to see or to hear me say that we’ve been doing a huge amount of work on aged care. Some of which is already in the public domain, and some of which that will come out shortly, particularly with respect to home care. We are bringing in a whole new support system that will be a part of the new Aged Care Act, we’re hoping to introduce soon.”

Ms Wells said a lot of work was happening “including thorough discussions with the Opposition about what that might look like… watch this space.”

On the government’s response to the Aged Care Taskforce recommendations, however, the sector will be left wanting according to a report in The Australian. Major aged care reforms proposed by the “taskforce to put the struggling sector on a firmer economic footing are set to be delayed beyond next week’s budget,” said Thursday’s report.

The media report prompted some in the sector to reiterate calls for the government to promptly adopt the Taskforce’s recommendations – which are largely focused around older people who can afford to paying more for care and living expenses with a strong safety net for those without means.

Jason Kara

This includes Jason Kara, chief executive officer of Catholic Health Australia who took to LinkedIn to tell the Albanese Government and Minister Wells they must use the upcoming budget to urgently enact funding reforms.

“Catholic Health Australia hopes that the Minister follows through with the reforms she bravely recommended as head of the Aged Care Taskforce,” he wrote.

Does a delay indicate it is back to the drawing board for solution on the sector’s financial sustainability?

Not everyone backs taskforce recommendations

Among those intersted in other solutions is former aged care provider peak chief executive officer Greg Mundy who is among the relative minority questioning the taskforce’s proposal.

“The aged care industry – the spokespeople for providers and some consumers – appears to have settled themselves on an increasingly user-pays approach to redressing the poor remuneration of aged care staff and supporting the continued growth of services to meet increasing demand from an ageing population,” Mr Mundy told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“Both of these problems need to be addressed. What strikes me about this is the narrowness of focus than underpins it. It neglects consideration of the fact that older people needing care are likely to have adult children whose only hope of getting onto the home owning treadmill is the value currently locked up in the ‘family home’. There is something worryingly self-serving about this,” said Mr Mundy, a health sector executive and consultant who was CEO of Aged & Community Services Australia from 2000-2010.

“If this stored value is harvested to fund aged care provision, good luck with being able to purchase your own home. Granny is taken care of in the short term and the aged care provider industry can grow to meet the demand from an ageing population but this may be, is likely to be in many cases, at the expense of the next generation.”

Stay tuned for more budget coverage

Whatever is in – or missing from – the budget we’ll have a story for you next Wednesday on the highlights followed by more in-depth coverage in the days that follow.

If you’ve have a comment to share next week on any of the aged care budget outcomes send it to editorial@australianageingagenda.com.au

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Tags: aged care taskforce, anika wells, Budget 2024, Greg Mundy, home care, new aged care act,

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