Increased transitional support for the sector, new programs on palliative care and dental care, and measures to improve workforce feature in the Budget wish lists of consumer and professional groups.
Today we present the second part of Australian Ageing Agenda’s report looking at what sector stakeholders are hoping to see in this year’s Budget.
Among the issues raised by the consumer groups and professional bodies we canvassed were the need for continued aged care reform, new programs in key areas such as community-based palliative care and dental care for seniors, while unions highlighted the need for Budget measures to address long-standing workforce issues.
(Part one of our report published on Wednesday featured the views of aged care providers and peak bodies. It is available to read again here).
COTA: continued reform, greater transitional support
The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia said its pre-Budget lobbying efforts had focussed on two key areas – continuing aged care reform, and the case for a retirement incomes review, which it said would intersect with aged care.
COTA chief executive Ian Yates said he would like to see the government include some Budget measures that would further the recent comments from Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield regarding the next phase of aged care reform – specifically consumer budget holding and moving to a single community care system.
“We would be delighted if they moved on giving [home care] packages, and indeed bed licences to the consumer,” he told Australian Ageing Agenda. “That’s probably unlikely but I think we need some clear signals to industry to show that’s where we’re headed. We’re working through NACA to develop a timeframe and pathway for that.”
Mr Yates also confirmed that COTA had expressed concern to government regarding the level of transitional support it had provided to the sector as it implemented consumer directed care (CDC) and the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP). He said:
“Essentially they’re trying to do everything within the current funding envelope; if you compare that with NDIS, which has had substantial funds for sector development work.”
While he was not optimistic that additional resources would be included in the Budget, Mr Yates said he believed the government should be providing greater support to the industry through this period of substantial change.
COTA had also emphasised to government the need to properly resource the continued development of the aged care gateway, including integration of assessment services, he said.
National Seniors: housing for seniors
In its pre-budget submission, fellow consumer lobby National Seniors proposed a revamped version of Labor’s Housing Help for Seniors scheme, which would exempt up to $150,000 in proceeds from the sale of the home from being assessed under the income or asset test for the Age Pension.
“An innovative approach is required to enable seniors to access their equity wealth and downsize without the additional risks and disincentives of reverse mortgages, and without the fear of a negative impact on their Age Pension,” the organisation said in its Budget submission.
National Seniors said the $100 million trial program would not only provide an incentive to downsize but would also release funds locked in the family home to pay for age-friendly home modifications, health and aged care costs.
Alzheimer’s Australia: Fund dementia awareness, prevention
Alzheimer’s Australia chief executive officer Carol Bennett said her organisation was hoping to see the government boost its commitment to the care and support of people with dementia by investing in dementia-specific services, dementia risk reduction, and a national program to tackle the stigma and social isolation associated with dementia.
“Given the prevalence of dementia as the second leading cause of death in Australia we would also like to see the investment in research increased,” Ms Bennett told AAA.
Ms Bennett singled out the need for continued block funding of the Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program, which had provided thousands of Australians with younger onset dementia access to health professionals to help link them to appropriate services. She said:
“If the proposed transition of this program into the NDIS goes ahead, it would be an alarming development for people who have received a diagnosis of younger onset dementia as they would be left to fend for themselves in the NDIS system where there is no guarantee their needs can or will be met.”
“We would also like to see the government extend the funding for the world’s first publicly-funded dementia prevention program, Your Brain Matters. Australia has had a world-leading role in educating the Australian public of the risks of dementia through this program and the government should protect and stand behind Your Brain Matters with a $6.2 million investment over three years,” said Ms Bennett.
PCA: Project to ‘normalise dying’
Palliative Care Australia said it wanted to see recognition of palliative care as an important part of the health system in the Federal Budget.
PCA chief executive officer Liz Callaghan told AAA her organisation had appealed for funding to begin a ‘normalising dying’ project to raise community awareness around end of life.
“This would encourage all Australians to think about and plan for their deaths, giving those closest to them the tools they need to advocate on their behalf and ensure wishes at end of life are met,” she said.
The Grattan Institute’s Dying Well report had recognised the importance of community-based care to ensure those Australians who want to can die at home, Ms Callaghan said, adding that PCA would welcome an investment in palliative care packages based on that mode.
FECCA: CALD strategy, research clearing house
In its pre-Budget submission to Treasury, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) called for the Federal Government to fund a plan of action to implement the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“The government, through the Department of Social Services, and in consultation with FECCA and other key stakeholders, should establish an appropriately resourced implementation and oversight mechanism to ensure the goals of the strategy are achieved through targeted actions,” the organisation said.
FECCA’s other Budget priorities included the funding of research projects on dementia and CALD older people and the development of a clearing house for aged care data in relation to the ageing experience of CALD communities.
ADA: Dental scheme for age pensioners
Modelled on the existing Child Dental Benefits Schedule, the Australian Dental Association (ADA) proposed the Federal Government introduce a similar scheme targeting the oral health of full age pensioners, which is estimated to cost $266 million per year.
The scheme, called the Age Pension Dental Benefits Schedule, could be funded from health savings achieved by addressing poor dental health and a reduction in direct expenditure on oral health costs through early intervention, the ADA said.
In conjunction with the seniors’ oral health scheme, ADA called for the government to prioritise the needs of aged care residents including through regular oral health screening and the development of oral health plans in facilities.
ADA said the prevalence of oral diseases among people over the age of 65 is significantly higher than for the general population.
ANMF: Staffing levels improved
National staffing requirements and changes to training were the among the features the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) included in its Budget wish list.
ANMF federal secretary Lee Thomas told AAA she wanted to see Budget measures that provided for adequate staffing levels in residential aged care that took into consideration the care needs of residents. She said a “national discussion about staffing levels” in aged care was needed.
Specifically she said the union wanted to see the requirement for an RN to be onsite 24/7 to be “reinstated in the federal regulations” where there were high care residents.
The ANMF also called for mandatory minimum training at Certificate III level for AINs employed in aged care to ensure they were adequately trained to provide care to residents, and for regulation of all AINs similar to the national registration scheme for nurses and midwives.
Ms Thomas said the ANMF also wanted the Budget to include funding for graduate nurse programs in aged care.
United Voice: workforce strategy needed
Helen Gibbons, assistant national secretary of United Voice, said the government needed to recognise there was a “looming workforce crisis in aged care” which if ignored would have devastating consequences for seniors. Ms Gibbons told AAA:
“The government needs to address this through a workforce strategy and other initiatives, such as funding for improved access to training and improved career pathways for staff.”
She said there needed to be increased funding to the sector more broadly “to ensure all Australians who need it have access to quality, affordable aged care, whether in their own homes or in residential aged care settings.”
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