The Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley has confirmed that the government will assist the industry in the development of an aged care workforce strategy.
Earlier this month, the Opposition accused the Federal Government of outsourcing its leadership role on workforce and abandoning its commitment to develop an aged care workforce strategy.
Labor’s comments came after Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash told a Senate estimates hearing that while the government was committed to working with the aged care industry, providers were “ultimately responsible for workforce.”
Speaking at the Leading Aged Services Australia Tri-State conference on Sunday, Ms Ley acknowledged that the workforce was an important issue for the sector, and said she wanted to take the opportunity to confirm that government would assist with the development of a workforce strategy, “as we said we would.”
However, Ms Ley said she wanted to be “clear” that the primary responsibility for workforce still rests with providers, noting that this was the rationale behind returning Labor’s $1.2 billion workforce supplement to industry in the 2014 Budget.
“Aged care providers are in the best place to determine workforce needs and manage their workforce,” she said.
Ms Ley said the Department of Health was presently working through the details of how the strategy would work and more information will be available to the sector soon.
Residential care the next area of reform
Ms Ley said she was pleased to have introduced the legislation that will see home care packages allocated to consumers from February 2017 into parliament this month. She said this reform will reduce red tape for businesses and improve consumer choice and control.
Building on this and the planned consolidation of the home care system in 2018, Ms Ley said residential aged care needs to be the next area of reform.
“It’s my view that service providers should be able to make business decisions about where to build a residential care service and then allow them to attract customers through price and service,” she told the Albury audience.
On the topic of residential care, Ms Ley reiterated that the $150 million overspend in the ACFI was not explained by frailty growth, as has been argued by the industry’s peak bodies. Aged care expenditure must remain within its allocated but growing budget, she said.
“I do want to work with industry to ensure certainty in residential aged care funding,” she said.
Support for rural and remote providers
Ms Ley acknowledged the additional financial challenges faced by rural and remote providers as highlighted by the Aged Care Financing Authority’s report released last week.
She said the report showed the government’s viability supplement was well targeted, and noted that one third of providers had financial results equal to or better than metropolitan services.
However, she said there was “no doubt” that government needed to consider how best to support rural and remote providers – whose models of local care she called “unsurpassed” – to continue to be viable.
Quality beyond compliance
The minister noted quality as another priority area for government, and said that the current accreditation system was only one part of the quality picture.
“I want Australia’s aged care system to have an approach to quality that understands and anticipates what’s important to the individual,” said Ms Ley.
“A quality facility and service should be one that exceeds the consumer’s expectations, not one that is simply safe and compliant – that should be a given.”
Ms Ley repeated previous statements that she would like the My Aged Care gateway to progressively resemble travel review website TripAdvisor in order to help assist consumers in their decision-making.
(Photo: Peak Multimedia)
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