Provider peak bodies have reiterated their concerns for the aged care sector following the release of the Government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
MYEFO 2019-20, which was released on Monday, contains the four-year $537-million-funding package the Federal Government announced last month as part of its response to the aged care royal commission’s interim report (read more here) and $87 million for aged care system administration and back-end services.
The $624 million includes:
- $497 million for an additional 10,000 home care packages
- $25.5 million to improve aged care medication management programs to reduce the use of chemical restraint
- $10 million to increase dementia training and support for aged care workers
- $4.7 million to support getting younger people out of residential aged care
- $31.5 million over three years to support transition to new aged care national assessment framework
- $21.9 million for My Aged Care operating costs
- $13.6 million over two years for the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to respond to requests from the aged care royal commission.
Aged care provider groups united again on Monday to warn that the lack of new aged care investments in MYEFO means the risk of an aged care emergency remains in 2020 including some residential providers finding find it almost impossible to continue delivering quality care.
Aged and Community Services Australia, Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, The Aged Care Guild and UnitingCare Australia reiterated their calls earlier this month for additional funding for residential aged care, home care packages and workforce support.
“Further targeted investment and reforms are urgently required to help ensure residential care sustainability, so older Australians in need receive care services where and when they require them,” the groups said in a joint statement on Monday morning.
ACSA CEO Patricia Sparrow said providers were concerned that without additional funding older Australians would miss out on the care they needed.
“We’ve seen for years now that the cost of providing residential aged care has been faster than the funding that supports it and providers can only run in deficit for a certain amount of time,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Ms Sparrow said aged care workforce recruitment and training were other key areas that needed urgent focus.
“We need more workers, but we need to make sure that there’s good career paths and well remunerated roles to bring people in and to get them to stay and deliver the care,” she said.
Ms Sparrow said there was no reason to delay action until after the royal commission’s final report.
“We understand there is bigger reform coming and we all want that to be the case, but we don’t think that’s a reason not to act now to make sure that older people get the services they need,” Ms Sparrow said.
“The budget will still be ahead of a final report from the royal commission and I hope that we are not going to be in the same bind next year.”
The provider groups are also calling for immediate action to embed community infrastructure strategies in National Drought Response plans in regional, rural and remote services and additional supplements for these services.
Other stakeholders call for Government action now
Consumer peak COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said MYEFO facilitated current aged care reforms while the aged care royal commission continued, but major structural reform and other measures now were still needed.
“COTA… recognises the financial pressure many residential aged care providers are under; however additional funding for residential care must focus on structural reform as an essential first step towards real transformation of aged care, as the royal commission has flagged,” Mr Yates said.
“And more than 18 months after the government’s in principle commitment in the 2018 Federal Budget to deliver older Australians real choice in residential care providers we still don’t have a clear timetable for this to happen, yet this is not something that needs to wait for the royal commission,” he said.
The United Workers Union aged care director Carolyn Smith said MYEFO told nothing new.
“The Government has shown that they will do nothing for the 110,000 Australians sitting on the home care waitlist and will do nothing to increase time for quality care in residential facilities – and will do nothing to support the aged care workforce navigating a system in crisis,” Ms Smith said.
“There was no money to address chronic understaffing, which means for the time being our elderly will not be receiving the care they deserve,” she said.
Ms Smith said Australia could not wait for the recommendations of the royal commission’s final report.
The $87 million funding includes:
- $11.4 million in 2019-20 to increase the capability of the Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to effectively monitor, identify and respond to failures in care and financial risks in aged care
- $5.9 million in 2019-20 to develop a second-pass business case for the development of an external assessment tool as an alternative to the existing Aged Care Funding Instrument
- $1.9 million in 2019-20 to strengthen prudential and financial risk management of aged care providers
- $1.1 million in forgone non-tax revenue in 2019-20 from deferring the implementation of a mandatory levy on residential care providers where the Accommodation Payment Guarantee Scheme is triggered.
Access the MYEFO report here.
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