Door-knocking the corridors of power

A delegation from Australia’s largest network of aged care providers went to Parliament House yesterday to help keep the momentum for aged care reform going, and stick up for those who the free market won’t help.

Above: Vaughan Harding, CEO of Uniting Church Homes

By Stephen Easton

Representatives from Australia’s largest network of aged care providers were in Canberra yesterday, urging MPs and senators of all stripes to support the industry’s aged care reform agenda and in doing so, not to forget society’s most disadvantaged.

The seven-member delegation, representing Uniting Care Australia’s aged care providers, travelled to federal parliament seeking commitments to aged care reform from members of both major parties and the Greens, as lobbying gathers pace with the hopes of many in the sector pinned on the 2012 Federal Budget.

Unsurprisingly, no firm commitments emerged from the meetings but nevertheless, the full day spent going office to office in the corridors of power was declared a success by Vaughan Harding, acting chair of the Uniting Care Aged Care Network and chief executive of West Australian provider, Uniting Church Homes.

“Overall it was a very productive day,” Mr Harding said. “We are certainly aware that our parliamentarians have many pressing issues on their plates at the moment … but we need to ensure that aged care and the needs of older Australians are not forgotten and that the opportunity we have now is pressed hard.”

“What we’re saying is that this parliament that is sitting now really needs to step up to the opportunity which is now available; this once-in-a-generation opportunity to really do something about delivering a modern aged care system to older Australians.”

As well as bringing the Uniting Care network’s considerable weight to bear in keeping up the reform momentum going, the delegation also focused strongly on the issue of making sure disadvantaged groups won’t be left behind in the rush to deregulation.

“We have a very particular interest in the needs of disadvantaged Australians — low income people, Indigenous people and people living in rural, remote and regional Australia,” Mr Harding said.

“For many of these people, that market-based system [proposed by the Productivity Commission] won’t work. The Productivity Commission has recommended a system of block funding to deal with that, but of course that’s very broad.

“How it will work is not certain and we are focused on the detail of that … to ensure the money that will be allocated, will be sufficient, so we don’t have a two-tiered system where the people with money have everything, and the other people have the pickings of whatever’s left over.”

Mr Harding said that while he would welcome the government taking decisive action on aged care reform in the next few months, this was much more likely to happen in the lead-up to next May’s budget.

“The government has a fair bit on its plate,” he acknowledged, including new mental health initiatives and the PC’s ‘other’ report, Disability Care and Support, which recommended the creation of the National Disability Insurance Scheme

Added to those is the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) health reform process which, he said, would fail without aged care reform occurring at the same time.

“So even just in the space in which we operate, there are some big-ticket items the government are tackling at the moment,” he said. “We don’t want all the oxygen to be taken up by these other programs.”

Many in the sector see next year’s budget as a line in the sand, where it will be seen whether the Gillard government has the mettle to push through the reforms before what is shaping up to be a difficult electoral battle some time in 2013.

The 2013 election-year budget, according to Mr Harding’s suspicions, “won’t be a great environment in which to move on aged care matters”.

“In terms of attracting the voter, [aged care is] not one of those sorts of issues.”

The Uniting Care delegation included Mr Harding and representatives of Uniting Care Ageing (NSW & ACT), Uniting Aged Care (Vic & Tas), Resthaven (SA) as well as Uniting Care Australia’s national director, Lin Hatfield-Dodds, and director of service development, Susan Helyar. The delegation met with parliamentarians on behalf of all aged care providers in the Uniting Care network.

Meetings were held with:

The next meeting of the National Aged Care Alliance – the aged care sector’s main forum for input into the government’s reform strategy – will be held on 24 November in Adelaide.

Tags: disadvantaged-older-adults, government, indigenous, parliament, pc, productivity-commission, reform, remote-and-rural, rural-and-regional, uniting-care,

1 thought on “Door-knocking the corridors of power

  1. Whilst access to residential aged care for low income residents needs to be provided, the current concessional ratios stipulated for each region, take this into account. Reform of the sector must take into account a level playing field for all providers including those residents who are able to contribute to both the capital and recurrent costs of their care. It would be a great pity if employees of the NFP with no capital involved in the sector derailed progress on reforms allowing providers to charge accommodation bonds. We must not forget the treachery of those in the NFP sector that contributed to a scare campaign that led to the scuttling of proposed accommodation bonds for high care in 1997. – Graeme Croft, CEO, Innovative Care Ltd.

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