The nation’s peak providers have united with one voice to commend the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians Issues Paper and its potential for real reform.
But the praise is conditional. The Campaign for the Care of Older Australians (CCOA) has stressed that the upcoming inquiry must be the final review, upon which the government must act.
“The Productivity Commission has covered all the bases necessary for a thorough assessment and understanding of aged care,” CCOA said.
“The paper also acknowledges no less than five significant inquiries have been undertaken since 2004, with most of the recommendations for major reform around the funding and regulation unheeded. This time we need action.
“[The inquiry] must be the final review and its recommendations a compelling directive for the Government to act in conjunction with consumers and aged care providers.”
The paper is intended to provide background material on the current aged care system and guide contributions in the areas the Commission has been asked to examine. It also sets the scope of the inquiry which, according to the paper, will examine aged care in the context of the wider health system.
One of the most controversial topics addressed in the paper is funding. Inviting debate, it questions: “Who should pay for aged care services? Are the current government subsidies and user charges for aged care appropriate?…To what extent should means testing be applied?”
The Commission will take into account the changes in government responsibilities, announced at COAG in April and attempt to eliminate incentives for cost shifting practices, which affect the quality of care.
Access, choice, affordability and the specific issues confronting rural and remote communities have all also been highlighted as key topics.
“We urge all political parties to put the urgent needs of older Australians before short term political advantage in the lead up to this year’s election and call on both the Government and the Opposition to commit now to significant reform of aged care within the next term of office,” CCOA said.
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, welcomed the release of the paper and the possible redesign of the country’s aged care system.
“Australia has an ageing population and by 2050 nearly one-quarter of the population will be aged 65 years or older so it is important that we make sure that we have a system of care in place to meet this increasing demand,” Minister Elliot said.
“I encourage older Australians, their carers and families, aged care service providers, staff, consumer and training organisations to contribute to the inquiry and have their say on the future of the Australia’s aged care system.
CCOA comprises 11 national organisations providing community and residential aged care and housing.
Initial submissions to the Commission must be received by Friday 30 July. For more information on the inquiry, including information on how to make a contribution and copies of the Issues Paper, visit www.pc.gov.au