The Australian Greens have released its aged care reform agenda less than two weeks out from the federal election, providing aged care staff, industry leaders and advocates with a real electoral alternative in the polling booths on August 21.

The plan, Aged Care for the Future, sets out the Greens’ comprehensive long-term reform agenda which advocates for a more flexible aged care system with greater choice and improved access.

Health and ageing spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert, sounded the call for urgent action to reform the aged care sector and look after the needs of older Australians.

“While current policy settings have the demand for aged care services growing by 436 per cent over the next 40 years from $11.1 billion per annum to $59.6 billion per annum in 2050, Access Economics suggest this growth could be in the order of 749 per cent, leading to an annual aged care budget of $94.2 billion in 2050,” said Senator Siewert.

“The Greens believe we need to be proactive – to minimise these future costs and deliver better outcomes and quality of life for ageing Australians,”

Their aged care policy promised increased funding and realistic indexation for aged care; more money for an integrated system of community care; better wages and conditions for all aged care staff; the need for greater support for informal and family care and for care volunteers; investment in dementia research; and a consumer-directed funding model.

Also listed on their agenda was the need to establish an Independent National Aged Care Authority and a single national funder for all aged care services.

“We have a growing demand for services that isn’t being met,” she said. “The existing system is dysfunctional and ill-prepared to meet the needs of the future.

“The Greens’ plan advocates for an extra $127 million to properly index aged care services, $390 million investment in community care services to allow older Australians to stay in their homes and communities longer, $100 million for better staff wages and conditions, $30 million to better support family carers, and $20 million for an urgent dementia research program.

“We need fundamental reform of our aged care system to future-proof it, rather than more tinkering around the edges. By focusing on prevention and early intervention to keep people healthy and active, we can act now to mitigate future demand for complex care.”

The Campaign for Care of Older Australians (CCOA) welcomed the Greens’ plan, which recognised the need for immediate and long-term aged care action.

“Plugging funding gaps impacting on the delivery of services are critical as are measures to lift wages for aged care workers including nurses,” said CCOA.

“Real investment, which must include increased access to capital, will also mean there are the people, places and services to prevent inappropriate hospitalization of older people unable to access the care they need.

“We applaud the Greens proposal to install a Minister for Older Australians as a senior member of government supported by an office to oversee properly integrated services and systems.”

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