Department looks for circuit breaker on cycle of funding cuts

The Department of Health wants to break out of its unhealthy relationship with the aged care sector over the long-running debate about the Aged Care Funding Instrument, a top bureaucrat has said.

The Department of Health wants to break out of its unhealthy relationship with the aged care sector over the long-running debate about the Aged Care Funding Instrument, a top bureaucrat has said.

Dr Nick Hartland, first assistant secretary of the department’s aged care policy and regulation division said it was clear that the department and the sector were not where they needed to be on the issue of the aged care funding tool.

The ACFI has been a source of contention between providers and government since it was introduced in 2008, underscored by periodic blow-outs in the tool’s budget, which most recently resulted in a $1.2 million cut.

That controversial decision, announced in the May budget, is still the subject of ongoing sector consultations with the government.

Speaking at the Australian Association of Gerontology conference on Wednesday, Dr Hartland said it was not healthy either for the department to have to repeatedly report the funding blowouts to central government agencies or for the sector’s main conversation with the department to be about funding cuts.

“We are quite interested in finding a way breaking out of that,” he told the Canberra audience.

“We would be very interested if intelligent and well-grounded academics who look at this area had some information for us about what the research might be telling us about how to do things better.”

The department was interested in hearing from those with expertise in aged care needs assessment, or those who had knowledge around behavioural economics in aged care, he said.

Given the projected cost to the Commonwealth of funding aged care for a growing number of older people over coming debates, the department was keen to find a sustainable long-term funding system, he said.

In addition to latest evidence on aged care needs assessment and ACFI, Dr Hartland said the department was keen to hear from researchers who were doing work on the review of the Living Longer Living Better and the 2018 merger of home care and home support, as these were the other key areas it would be advising government on over the coming 18 months.

As Australian Ageing Agenda recently reported, the government has commissioned the University of Wollongong to identify alternatives to the ACFI (read that story here).

The university has been engaged to review international models of assessing care needs, as well as funding methods used in related sectors such as the health and hospital system.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that ACFI was introduced in 2012. 

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Tags: AAG-conference, acfi, nick-hartland,

3 thoughts on “Department looks for circuit breaker on cycle of funding cuts

  1. Aged care providers have a vested interest in maximising income and reducing costs of service provision. Simply replacing the ACFI with another assessment tool will not change this dynamic. A range of measures to increase the contributions of users (those who have the means to pay more) have been implemented. Enabling aged care providers to introduce a range of optional services in residential aged care (known as ‘consumer directed care’) will provide additional revenue. The rest is just politics.

  2. What about dividing the departmental budget subsidies by the present number of recipients to get the average care subsidy – then apply that amount to every resident – then allow for regional differences [country / city/ remote] + special issues such as epidemics. There now, we didn’t need a Report and we don’t need a top heavy department to administer an ACFI like bureaucratic nightmare

  3. Any form of prescriptive, needs-based funding will always get milked dry. Whether its protective bandaging or aromatherapy, someone’s going flog it to death.

    Take a snapshot of current ACFI payments, agree on a set rate (that’s the hard part, lock in CPI, schedule some regular reviews and we’re done. Maybe you could add some extra funds to incentivise facilities to do things properly (like physiotherapists doing real work and not just production-line massages).

    Please, Mr Hartland, don’t flick it to the aged care advisory panel; that’s how we got here.

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