There are now just 2,000 residential aged care licences up for grabs under the current funding round while 8,000 places remain on hold pending the royal commission’s final report.

Priority for the initial 2,000 places in the 2020 Aged Care Approvals Round, which was postponed last March to divert resources to the coronavirus response, will be given to providers who are ready to deliver care immediately or within 18 months.

The 2020 ACAR now includes 1,028 short-term restorative care places plus $150 million in capital grants targeting services outside major cities.

When announced in December 2019, the funding round included 10,000 residential care places, 750 short-term restorative care places and up to $60 million in capital grants.

Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck, who announced the new details the week before Christmas, said the residential places on offer would accommodate providers that have made significant progress with expansion plans, ensuring care could be provided faster.

Richard Colbeck

The $150 million in capital grants represents a major commitment to regional, rural and remote Australia, Mr Colbeck said.

“Now is the time to back providers to develop and deliver quality residential care services where they are needed most, as well as boost the economy through jobs creation in the construction and aged care sectors,” he said.

Priorities for the funding include:

  • upgrades to create more spacious rooms, increased privacy and decreased shared living
  • dementia-friendly services aimed at allowing people in the bush to remain in their communities
  • improved infection prevention and control measures
  • help for providers in financial stress to bring their residential care places online, including those affected by bushfires and COVID-19.

Mr Colbeck said the impacts of the pandemic and reforms underway coupled with the impending report from the royal commission required the refocus of the 2020 ACAR.

“We are working towards increasing supply subject to the recommendations of the royal commission’s final report,” he said.

However, residential care places can often take over four years to become operational, he said.

“It is therefore pragmatic to wait for the preferred reform pathway to be in place, before allocating places to projects that take this amount of time,” he said.

Sector in “uncertain place”

Sean Rooney

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the current uncertainties make it difficult for many providers to decide whether they want to put in an ACAR application this round.

“Many residential care operators are under significant financial pressure and have put on hold future development plans,” Mr Rooney told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“There are many allocated places that have not been built and recent reports show occupancy overall is declining,” he said.

There is also uncertainty about the direction of future policy following the aged care royal commission’s final report, Mr Rooney said.

He called on the Government to resolve the current financial pressures and provide certainty on future policy directions to encourage further investment in residential aged care.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow welcomed the ACAR funding, but called for clarity about future plans.

Patricia Sparrow

“The Government will need to make a clear announcement about the future of the ACAR process and funding in response to the royal commission in order to allow aged care provider to plan future arrangements,” Ms Sparrow told AAA.

“Having capital available is also important and [it’s] good to see short term restorative places also available,” she said.

The 2020 ACAR runs from 18 December 2020 to 18 March 2021.

Access application forms, guidance materials and other resources here.

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