Minister outlines next wave of reforms

Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has made his strongest statements to date in support of a consumer-led aged care system – by lifting government rationing of places in residential care, and moving to a cashed out model in home care.

In this story:

  • Government announces support for freeing up government control over supply in residential aged care and giving resources to home care clients to direct
  • My Aged Care will list non-government funded aged care services from 1 July 2015
  • Minister flags move to a single community care system, consolidating the home support and home care programs

Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has made his strongest statements to date in support of a consumer-led aged care system – by lifting government rationing of places in residential care, and moving to a voucher system in home care.

In a speech to the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) this afternoon, Senator Fifield outlined the government’s agenda to give consumers greater control over their home care packages, including budget holding.

Like the NDIS, Senator Fifield said that aged care’s “time has come” for funding to follow the consumer rather than the provider. “The next logical step is to give the consumer full control of their package and let them direct how and with whom it is spent to meet their assessed needs,” he told the Sydney audience. “Why not let the packages we currently have – and the 80,000 new ones coming on line over the next 10 years – operate this way and move a step closer to the consumer-led market to which we aspire,” he said.

Significantly, Senator Fifield flagged the possibility of moving to a consumer-led market ahead of the five year review of the aged care reforms, currently slated for 2017.

In residential care, Senator Fifield said the government supported a rethink of planning ratios and freeing up supply of aged care places “within the existing taxpayer envelope.” He said:

“Governments can continue to try and second guess what older Australians want, ration their beds and hand them out like taxi licences. Or we can get out of the way, let the consumers decide what they want and allow the market to supply what is needed.”

Senator Fifield said he supported opening up the supply of places to allow residential care providers to make business decisions about where to build a facility and then allow providers to attract customers through price and service.

However, he acknowledged that not all areas of Australia could deliver this form of market-based aged care and some areas would need to be managed differently. But he said where the market could work it should be allowed to.

The National Aged Care Alliance has long supported a move to an entitlement system in aged care across both residential and home care as was proposed by the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians inquiry.

Single community care system

In another noteworthy development, Senator Fifield publicly stated his support for a consolidated home support and home care program, another key item on NACA’s wish list.

“It’s time to simplify the funding program structure. People are either supported at home or in residential care – our funding structures should mirror this by consolidating the home care package program and the home support program,” he said.

In a significant change to My Aged Care, Senator Fifield also announced the government would expand My Aged Care to list all aged care services from 1 July 2015, whether or not they are government funded.

This will be seen as a win for private providers that have been lobbying government to expand the website’s service finders.

A Trip Advisor for aged care

Senator Fifield said a Trip Advisor-style My Aged Care would also develop quality ratings for providers and their services according to “what matters to consumers rather than what departments and providers think they should be.”

While the minister did not commit to a timeframe for this next wave of reform, he wanted the conversation to start before the legislated five-year review of the aged care reforms.

“I can’t promise that all of this will be achieved this year or the next. But I can promise that today is the start of a conversation to see that we get there.”

HAVE YOUR SAY: What do you think about the Senator’s remarks? Comment below

Tags: ceda, home-care-packages, individual-fund-holding, mitch-fifield, rationing, reform, slider,

8 thoughts on “Minister outlines next wave of reforms

  1. It is very exciting to read the Senator Fifield’s statements and support for consumer directed services. Here at Perth Home Care services we really hope that this will give elderly people and their families real choice about how they use their package, which provider they choose and the option of managing for themselves. I would love to be involved in looking at the detail.

  2. Great to hear results of years of lobbying that the Minister has committed to reflecting all choices and options for ageing consumers through MyAgedCare.

  3. Listing private home care providers on the My Aged Care Website will be a huge step towards providing consumers with real choice of home care services.

  4. This is privatisation and will result in lower standards as providers pursue as much profit as possible. It is not the solution it sounds to be.

  5. This is great news that the government is thinking along these lines! There will always be a need for management of some peoples’ budgets, but as the Minister said the majority of older people know what they want in terms of support. And a single home support/home care system will be much easier to navigate.
    But what about carers? We should consider a cash payment system for them also, because so many respite or carer support services as they are currently structured do not meet the needs of diverse carers and the people they are caring for.

  6. This is good news for consumers! Listing private operators on the MyAgedCare website is very much needed. Choice of service in a democratic society should be a citizen’s right. It is empowering for older people, their carers and families, and many are quite capable of choosing and managing the services that best meet their needs. Most empowering of all is that they can choose to “take their business elsewhere” if its not up to scratch. Choosing a private operator rather than a not-for-profit one, does not mean you get a lower quality or higher cost service. Quite the opposite! Private operators have to work harder for customer satisfaction.

  7. As a health professional caring for people in the local hospital, community health centre and the Transition Care Programme, I am horrified to think that consumers will have to negotiate their care when they are least able to do so.
    I refer people for aged care packages often. It is usually the person who cannot manage their own care, that I refer.
    Some people with dementia are quite OK to continue to live independently in their own home, but need a care manager to assist them to manage their day to day living and to help keep appointments etc. Not everyone has family available to do this for them.
    These people will be forced to live in an aged care facility if there is no one to fill this void.
    This will cost the tax-payer more than providing the support needed to keep them at home.
    Already we are seeing people opt out of packages as they can’t afford to pay for their care.
    This particularly affect those self funded retirees who have assets but not necessarily the income to pay. They don’t want to sell their asset and even if they did want to, they have difficulty selling property in a rural area.

  8. The reforms across the social care sector are needed. What we need however is a sensible, staged approach that supports customers understand the entry points and how to navigate a changing “market”. We need to invest in building the capacity of the market to meet the growing and changing needs. We need to support people to plan for their care. The community care sector (be it not for profit or for profit suppliers) is not ready and we must resource the transition to the new arrangements. The market will fail people and the impacts will include gross inequities and rising costs to the health budget and heavier burdens for the informal care sector- mostly women.

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