Above: Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler.
By Stephen Easton
The results of this year’s Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR) have been announced and there is unanimous agreement that the increasingly bizarre figures reinforce the need to do away with the centrally planned system and leave it up to market forces.
In announcing the results the Minister for Mental Health, Ageing and Social Inclusion, Mark Butler, noted the clear discrepancies between the number of residential bed licenses and community care packages offered through the 2011 ACAR, the number aged care providers applied for, and how many they were eventually allocated.
24,000 applications were received for community care packages – more than ten times the 1,698 on offer – with 1,724 allocated to providers, Mr Butler said, acknowledging that consumers strongly favoured community care.
And although 10,493 residential aged care bed licenses were on offer in this year’s ACAR, only 7,933 were allocated to providers, with a number of regions undersubscribed and some having no applications at all.
The Minister noted that this was the fourth ACAR round in a row in which residential care places had been under-allocated.
“This means that not enough beds are being built today for the increasing number of older Australians tomorrow,” he said. “The result of this year’s ACAR highlights the importance of the Gillard Government’s aged care reforms.”
“It is clear to me that there are continuing pressures on our aged care system and that they are only going to become more acute as Australia’s population continues to age.
“[…] Structural reform is needed to deliver a sustainable aged care system for the future. That is why the Gillard Government asked the Productivity Commission to conduct its recently completed inquiry into aged care.”
The Shadow Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said the ACAR results showed the aged care system was “dysfunctional”, and urged the government to say when it would act on the Productivity Commission’s report.
“Minister Butler is aware of the state of suspended animation but is sitting on the Productivity Commission’s Final Report, Caring for Older Australians,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.
“No one knows whether the Government is going to act on any of the 58 recommendations.
“The Minister admits that not enough beds are being built today for the increasing number of older Australians tomorrow.
“Beds will not be built if the sector is not viable. There is no certainty for the sector when the Government has commissioned so many reviews but does not act on them.”
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA), Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) and ACAA’s West Australian branch (ACAA-WA) all released statements saying today’s ACAR announcement had reinforced the pressing need for aged care reform.
This year’s ACAR also saw extra service status approved for 4,354 residential care places, $58.5 million in capital grants to assist providers with capital works, and offers of $150 million in zero real interest loans which, according to the Minister, “will assist providers to build aged care services in areas of need”.
A $14.7 million grant was also awarded to Mission Australia to construct a 60-place facility for older homeless people in Orange, NSW.