Turning point for aged care?

Despite a quiet budget night, a senior industry official says the new Government is willing to work constructively with the sector.

The aged care industry council has breathed a sigh of relief after it was confirmed that the level of the Howard Government’s Conditional Adjustment Payment (CAP) would be increased to 8.75 per cent in the 2008-09 federal budget.

As recently as last weekend, rumours had been circulating that the Government would not renew the four-year scheme after it ended in June.

In her announcement the Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot, said the payment would provide $407.6 million over four years for investment in the aged care sector, bringing total CAP payments over the next four years to $2 billion.

The index has only been guaranteed for one year and will be subject to an inter-departmental review – due to be released in October.

The Government also used the budget to formalise election promises for the industry, including an extra 2,000 transitional care beds and $300 million in zero real interest loans for providers in areas of high need.

Despite the absence of any major new announcements for aged care, a senior industry figure has described budget night as a “turning point” for the sector.

Aged and Community Services Australia National President, Klaus Zimmerman told the association’s National Community Care Conference that Government politicians had signaled a clear intention to work constructively with the sector.

Mr Zimmerman was in Canberra for the budget where he had the opportunity to speak with the Minister along with Labor Cabinet members and backbenchers.

“Last night, I think was a turning point,” Mr Zimmerman told delegates. “There is a real willingness on the part of Government to engage constructively with the sector and adopt a partnership approach.”

To succeed in that, the Government needs to develop a sustainable index that matches the cost of care, provide a long-term capital-raising solution and ensure community care is adequately funded, according to a statement from the Aged Care Industry Council.

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