By Yasmin Noone

The 2011/12 federal budget announcement may have come and gone but disappointment about the lack of aged care funding has lingered.

Aged care representatives from both the Australian Greens and the Liberal Party have issued statements in reply to the Gillard budget, detailing their concerns for the sustainability of the sector.

The Australian Greens, in their statement, downplayed the future reform and funding prospects which could arise as a result of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) inquiry into aged care.

The party’s aged care spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert, instead stressed that a policy response, which may or may not happen in the long-term, can not be held up as a substitute for short-term measures, which are needed to fund and fix aged care now.

“Funding for aged care remains basically unchanged in the face of serious threats to the viability of services and the growing demands of an ageing population,” Senator Siewert said

“The sector has been seeking short-term fixes to secure services while the government develops its longer-term response to the reforms suggested by the PC. This call remains unanswered and I’m concerned about the capacity of the sector to manage until the long awaited reform is put in place.

“The aged care sector requested some very modest increases to try to prevent services from closing and to ensure older Australians don’t miss out on support in the interim.

“I’m disappointed to see that the funding for services continues to fall further behind rising costs, such as accommodation, utilities and wages.

“The government have overlooked the 1.75 per cent conditional adjustment payment requested to keep up with rising costs and they have failed to take any steps to put money aside for pay equity for workers in the sector.”

Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, said that the lack of additional aged care funding in the 2011/12 federal budget highlights the fact that the sector has been disregarded as the “poor cousin” of other health funding.

What’s more, Senator Fierravanti-Wells said, the sector is “unlikely” to receive a significant amount of new funding before the next budget.

“At least the aged care sector will not be getting its hopes up before then,” Senator Fierravanti-Wells said.

“The Gillard government ignored aged care in its COAG Health Reforms Mark I and II and now it has ignored it in the budget.

“Aged care missed the budget because the PC’s Caring for Older Australians reporting date was delayed from April to late June.  My concern is that they will miss the next budget as well.

“There is [also] no guarantee that this government will give a timely response to the PC report.”
 

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