Above: Aged & Community Services Australia CEO, Pat Sparrow, responded to the budget yesterday.
By Stephen Easton
The Federal Budget has failed to provide much-needed funding to address the immediate unmet needs of older Australians requiring aged care, according to most of the sector.
The two aged care peak bodies, several aged care providers and advocacy group National Seniors all had a different take on Wayne Swan’s thrifty shopping list, but noted the lack of any new funding for aged care places.
With the Productivity Commission’s final blueprint for aged care reform, Caring for Older Australians, due for delivery to the government in June, this year’s budget did not address what some see as an urgently needed injection of funds into the current system, to provide care for Australians who need it now.
Pat Sparrow, CEO of Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), said the budget had “left aged care in limbo” by ignoring their “modest” pleas for more Commonwealth support.
“While ACSA acknowledges the constraints on the Federal Budget at a particularly challenging time, the industry is putting the government on notice that 2012 must be the aged care budget,” Ms Sparrow said.
“This year’s bid for funding sought to maintain services’ viability and some level of growth in the lead up to implementation of reforms proposed by the Productivity Commission.
“Our claim for $330 million, comprising a 1.75% care subsidy for residential and community care and a $10 daily increase in accommodation charges for high-care residents, is a small price to ensure vital aged care services.”
Ms Sparrow also said higher wages could result from the last week’s decision by Fair Work Australia, which would undermine the sector unless more funding was provided to cover the cost.
Aged Care Association chief Rod Young called the budget a “hold the line affair” for aged care and welcomed increases to mental health funding, as well as a program to provide digital set-top boxes for aged pensioners, allowing them to continue receiving free-to-air television as analogue transmissions continue to be switched off around the country.
But like Ms Sparrow, Mr Young also put the government on notice, turning his attention to next year and making clear the sector will not be ignored.
“We remind the Prime Minister that she also promised to deal with aged care as a second term priority,” Mr Young said. “Aged care is still waiting.”
“The details of this budget clearly show that reform, especially for capital investment in residential care, is now critical.
“The Government must move to implement aged care reforms in their second term as promised, which means significant reform must be delivered in the 2012 Budget.”
National Seniors CEO, Michael O’Neill, attended the Parliament House lock-up on behalf of older Australians and emerged with the statement that his constituents remained “unscathed” by a “vanilla budget”, referring to the flavour of ice-cream some consider common and unexciting.
Mr O’Neill supported new initiatives to increase workforce participation among seniors and the extension of concessions to self-funded retirees, but echoed the concerns of the aged care sector at being left out.
“Missing from this budget are reform measures around long-festering issues such dental and aged care,” he said. “Seniors expect to see something solid and substantial around these things in the coming year.”