Above: Catholic Health CEO, Martin Laverty
Bipartisan support is emerging to improve access to aged care for older Australians living in poverty, according to the nation’s largest network of residential and community aged care providers.
Catholic Health Australia (CHA) chief executive, Martin Laverty, expressed optimism that both sides of politics supported the Productivity Commission’s (PC) aged care reform package, which he said would improve the situation for financially disadvantaged older Australians.
The CHA statement comes during Anti-Poverty Week, which aims to encourage research, discussion and above all, action to help alleviate the financial hardship that affects the lives of many Australians.
“The Productivity Commission has made recommendations that will deliver better access and choice in aged care to those not able to meet costs of care,” Mr Laverty said.
“We enthusiastically endorse those recommendations and it appears both the Government and Opposition are working steadily towards implementing elements of these recommendations, which in the years ahead will greatly improve the lives of financially disadvantaged older Australians.
“A society’s commitment to justice and compassion should be judged by looking at how it treats the most vulnerable citizens. When it comes to aged care, that group is those older Australians who don’t have the means to pay for their care or accommodation in their later years of life.”
Mr Laverty said that while tens of thousands of older Australians are struggling financially, they are rarely what people think of when they imagine poverty.
The CHA statement goes on to describe the specific ways in which the PC reforms would help the aged care sector support financially disadvantaged older Australians:
“Among recommendations made by the Commission are plans to make consumer contributions better reflect people’s capacity to pay, and for aged care service providers to make a proportion of their accommodation available to residents who are deemed to be financially disadvantaged.
“An aligned recommendation is an increase in the subsidy for the approved basic standard of residential care accommodation to reflect the average cost of providing such accommodation within a region, so that providers of aged care can deliver services on a financially sustainable footing.
“The Commission has proposed arrangements for any additional costs of providing aged care services to older people with special needs, such as the homeless, to be identified and appropriately funded. It has also recognised that its proposed reforms for consumer choice may have limited applicability for certain disadvantaged groups, and has instead proposed special funding arrangements such as block funding.
“A proposed reform to give seniors greater flexibility in how to use the savings locked up in their principal residence without being forced to sell that property is another step towards making people more financially secure in their retirement.”