The Federal Opposition leader has called on the government to cancel its plans to put aged care assessments out to tender in an address to a political, business and media forum this week.
Labor has also started an online campaign to stop the changes.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese spoke out against the plan while delivering a vision statement on respecting and valuing older Australians to the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane on Wednesday.
He said the aged care sector was broken due a collective failure of governments who have turned a blind eye for too long.
“There has been a lack of reform and investment in aged care – in both home care and residential aged care,” Mr Albanese said in his speech.
Mr Albanese called on the Government to cancel it plans “privatise aged care assessments.”
He was referring to the Federal Government’s December announcement of a national tender process in 2020 to select a network of assessment organisations for the previously announced move to a new single assessment workforce from April 2021.
The single assessment workforce, which was recommended including by the David Tune in the legislated review of aged care reforms, will replace the Regional Assessment Service, which assesses for low level home support, and the Aged Care Assessment Teams, which assess for home and residential aged care services.
- Read our backgrounder: Tensions rise over tender for single assessment approach
ACATs are operated by the states with federal government funding.
Mr Albanese said ACATs were usually older people’s first interaction with the aged care system and the first step to receiving a home or residential aged care service.
“Our aged care system is broken – and this Government wants to make it worse by subjecting ACAT to the indifference of the market.
“There is a role for the market. But markets have no conscience.
“The Government must abandon its plans immediately. It must act on the royal commission recommendations,” Mr Albanese said.
On Thursday, Labor started an online campaign asking people to sign their petition calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to stop the government’s plans to tender out the assessment process.
Labor announces ageing strategy
Central to the vision outlined by Mr Albanese on Wednesday is a Positive Ageing Strategy, which he said a Labor government would move quickly to develop and implement.
“It will outline a plan to help Australians in their final years of paid work, to build the nest egg that will let them retire when and how they want,” Mr Albanese said in the speech.
He said the plan would make sure that when Australians retire, they have access to quality healthcare, suitable urban environments, housing and quality aged care when the need arises.
The strategy will also confront the negative way society has come to view ageing, he said.
COTA supports strategy, not privatisation claims
Seniors advocacy COTA Australia called Labor’s vision for older Australians a promising step towards a comprehensive national, bipartisan ageing strategy.
COTA chief executive Ian Yates said he welcomed Mr Albanese’s recognition of the valuable contribution of older Australians to the community, and the missed opportunities by not addressing ageism and other cultural and structural barriers.
However, Mr Yates said COTA disagreed with Mr Albanese describing the planned move to single aged care assessment system as privatisation.
“A single consumer-focused professional national assessment service with many local access points has been recommended for years, by successive Reviews and by COTA and the National Aged Care Alliance. This is an essential front door for a reformed aged care system.
He said COTA would discuss this policy direction with Labor.
Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors Julie Collins has previously said Labor was not opposed to streamlining RAS and ACAT assessments as recommended in the Tune Review.
Patricia Sparrow, CEO of provider peak Aged & Community Services Australia, welcomed the Opposition Leader putting aged care issues on the public agenda.
“While there are no silver bullets on the table from any political party it is at least very welcome to hear leaders elevating aged care issues to the national stage,” she said.
Australian Ageing Agenda has sought comment from Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck.
This story was updated on Friday.
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