In a last ditch effort to win the sector over before the federal election on August 21, the Labor government has announced that, if re-elected, it will invest another $5 million in aged care translation services and cultural awareness staff training.
The much-needed funding initiative will aim to break down communication barriers facing older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The $5 million will include $2.2 million to engage interpreter services to help older people from non-English speaking backgrounds to communicate effectivley when dealing with health and aged care matters.
The government said that this initiative will support around 14,000 hours worth of on-site visits and telephone interpretation services each year.
Another $1 million is planned to go towards provider grants to help facility staff translate documents used in day-to-day care such as notices, menus and newsletters. A further $1.7 million will be allocated to provide cultural awareness training for staff in facilities.
Manager for Centre for Cultural Diversity in Ageing, Ljubica Petrov, has commended the current government for promising the funds.
“It’s a great initiative and it is such an important element of culturally appropriate service provision,” said Ms Petrov.
She Petrov said that providing culturally appropriate aged care services can sometimes prove to be challenge. But she said, service delivery and provision, and of course communication, can be made a lot easier with the implementation of specific translation services and cultural awareness training for staff.
Through such funding, she said, “…people who speak languages other than English will be able to be involved in decision-making process regarding the care that they receive. They will be able to understand and negotiate services”.
“[Older people] have specific needs brought about through the ageing process. But staff need to be aware of those needs that are culture specific.
“All aged care services need to think about working in a culturally diverse setting as they are all likely to have a culturally diverse staff base as well as a culturally diverse client base.
“Cultural can’t be an afterthought but it needs to be incorporated into service development and provision.”
In a joint Australian Labor Party statement issued today by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, the government said that they recognise that they need to do more to improve the sector.
The investment, the government said, builds on past funding and is yet another part along the path to further funding and reform.
“Often older Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds find it more difficult to communicate with aged care staff and access the care that is most suitable for their needs,” the statement said.
“Communication difficulties can mean that these older Australians may not receive timely care and support which can lead to poorer health outcomes and increased isolation.
“Together, these initiatives will help ensure that language or cultural background does not act as a barrier to receiving high quality aged care.”