In a surprise move, Sussan Ley on Wednesday announced she had been appointed Minister for Aged Care, in addition to her portfolio responsibilities as Minister for Health and Minister for Sport.
Ms Ley said she “proactively put [her] hand up to bring responsibility for aged care back to health and give it a seat at the Cabinet table.”
The appointment of Ms Ley as Minister for Aged Care comes just 10 days after aged care stakeholders had welcomed Christian Porter as the new minister responsible for their sector.
Responding to the announcement, Aged and Community Services CEO Adjunct Professor John Kelly welcomed the ministerial appointment but said that aged care should never have been moved out of the health department.
There has been considerable expenditure of time, money and effort under the machinery of government changes to move the ageing and aged care departmental staff to the Department of Social Services over the past two years, Adjunct Professor Kelly said.
He said ACSA looked forward to working with Minister Ley and Assistant Minister for Health Ken Wyatt, and also to continuing to work with the same group of departmental staff on the enormous reform program as they now transition back to the Department of Health.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Patrick Reid said his peak body welcomed the approach of integrating aged care into health but cautioned that aged care should not be “viewed purely through a medical prism,” but considered as part of assisting older Australians to live well.
“We continue to see issues relating to access, choice, quality of care and services, capability of the industry and workforce, all of which are directly impacted by government policy, funding, regulation and reform processes,” said Mr Reid.
“The biggest question on everyone’s mind is how this will impact My Aged Care and the other reforms underway for aged care. LASA seeks commitment from minister Ley that government processes will not derail or stymie the reform process nor provide an excuse to avoid the issues emerging from these changes,” he said.
Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood said that bringing health and aged care under the one umbrella was a significant step in the right direction.
“Minister Ley has shown a transparency and commitment to open dialogue with the health sector that has seen a rise in sector-government collaboration. Catholic Health Australia looks forward to working further with the minister as her responsibilities expand to more closely align with the breadth of services offered by our members across both the health and aged care sectors,” Ms Greenwood said.
UnitingCare Australia’s national director Lin Hatfield Dodds welcomed the appointment of a dedicated minister for the aged care portfolio as the sector was in the midst of implementing reforms.
“Minister Ley has proven herself a capable minister in human services delivery with complex legislation and large budgetary expenditure. There are considerable opportunities for Minister Ley to make her mark within the ageing portfolio,” Ms Hatfield Dodds said.
Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan said that returning ageing to the health portfolio put the priority on a healthy ageing population.
“The aged care sector has a big part to play in palliative care and providing palliative care services to people receiving aged care services. PCA welcomes the addition of Assistant Minister Ken Wyatt to health and his focus on aged care. The expansion of the health ministry will put a strong focus on health in the Cabinet,” Ms Callaghan said.
However, she added that there was still no clarity as to whether Minister for Rural Health Fiona Nash would continue with overall responsibility for palliative care, which she has had for the past two years.
National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said it made no sense for aged care to be treated in isolation from the health portfolio, and seniors would welcome the ministerial change. “We look forward to sharing with the minister the lived experiences of older Australians and their families in aged care,” Mr O’Neill said.
Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association of NSW (CPSA) senior advisor, research and advocacy Charmaine Crowe said many older people felt aged care had taken a back seat when the ageing portfolio was removed from the ministry after the last election. “CPSA is pleased that Minister Ley acknowledges that people are most comfortable when they can spend as long as possible in their own homes,” Ms Crowe said.
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