We’re just not there yet

Up until now, the Opposition has refused to either openly support or reject the government’s proposed package of aged care reforms. NACA hopes that tonight will be the night when the sector finds out exactly where it stands.

By Yasmin Noone

Aged care reform may have been announced and rubber stamped by the Labor Party but the government’s recently announced Living Longer Living Better package, contained in the 2012/13 Federal Budget, is still yet to receive the Opposition’s tick of approval and gain bipartisan support.

Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, is due to present his budget ‘right of reply’ in Parliament tonight, alongside Shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, who will also speak about the country’s 2012/13 financial plan.

Yet, despite much sector optimism surrounding the reforms, there is no guarantee that Mr Abbott and his party will support the government’s proposed Living Longer, Living Better package.

Although the Liberal Party has openly backed the notion of aged care reform, on several occasions, it has always reserved its judgement on the finer details of the matter. 

During an interview with 2GB announcer, Chris Smith, on the day aged care reform was officially announced by the government (Friday 20 April), Mr Abbott  would neither support nor reject the aged care reform package put forward by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler.

“It sounds good Chris but with this government, you’ve always got to be careful to distinguish the spin from the substance,” Mr Abbott said during his radio interview.

“A lot of the announcements this government makes tend to be quite different on examination to first glance.

“Now, I would be surprised if this money turns out to be new money and I would be surprised if this turns out to be government money [spent] as opposed to additional user-charges [for aged care services].

“Yes, we do need change in this area as the system is under strain. Yes, the Productivity Commission brought down a good report, much of which quite possibly should be taken forward.

“…But we need to be pretty careful about giving this [package] a big tick before we’ve seen all the details, given the history of this government.

“We absolutely accept that there is much and more that can be done better here… That’s why I really want to go through the proposal carefully before concluding if it’s good, bad or indifferent.

“…There are some sensible things, but a few barbs in there as well.”

A spokesperson for the Shadow Minister for Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, confirmed Mr Abbotts’s comments and said today that although the Opposition wants the aged care sector reformed, it is still yet to deliberate on the detail. 

“We welcome the fact that the government has finally responded to the Productivity Commission – we have been calling for reform of the aged care sector for some time,” the spokesperson said.

“…We want the opportunity to consider the legislation in detail before agreeing to provide comprehensive support – which we believe is a reasonable position for a responsible Opposition to take.

“Like so many of the Gillard government’s announcements we have already noticed there is very little new money actually being invested over the forward estimates. So the devil is in the detail.”

The 28 organisations of the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), representing seniors, workers, service providers and health professionals, have called on the Opposition to “uphold its previous commitment to support reform”.

COTA Australia CEO and spokesperson for NACA, Ian Yates, said the need for reform was too great to be hampered by party politics.

“The whole sector has commended the Gillard Government for finally putting aged care back on the agenda and working with us to come up with the foundations for a better system,” Mr Yates said.

“The ball is now in the Opposition’s court.

“They have previously indicated that they would support a sensible reform package, acknowledging the huge pressures on the current system and the imperative to plan for the looming ageing population.

“We will be keenly watching the Budget Right of Reply and Joe Hockey’s response to the proposed reforms.”

National director of UnitingCare Australia, Lin Hatfield-Dodds said older Australians deserved bipartisanship on this issue.

“For many years the fundamental and radical changes needed to improve aged care has been put off,” Ms Hatfield-Dodds said.

“In the meantime the sector has watched the system move closer and closer to breaking point.

“We can’t wait any longer for real and lasting improvement. The wants and needs of older Australians must be a priority for all sides of politics.

“While the government’s package isn’t perfect and the details still need to be negotiated, it will set us on the right path and we need bipartisan support to ensure it is implemented in the long-term.”

Sue Lines, assistant secretar for United Voice said hundreds of thousands of aged care staff would be keenly awaiting the Opposition response.
“Hard working aged care workers have finally been given some hope that their work will be recognised through the Workforce Compact,” Ms Lines said.

“They can only hope the Opposition do the right thing and support this critical measure.”

Mr Abbott’s budget reply to Parliament can be seen live on ABC News 24 at 7.30pm AEST.

Tags: 2gb, abbott, abc, butler, chris-smith, federal-budget, gillard, hockey, labor, lhmu, living-longer-living-better, naca, opposition, parliament, pc, right-of-reply, shadow-treasurer, tony-abbott, united-voice, uniting-care,

2 thoughts on “We’re just not there yet

  1. No one would deny the fact that staff in aged care are grossly underpaid & deserve a massive injection of funds to support the anticipated pay increase. However, for the governmant to be ripping $1.6 billion out of ACFI to achieve this is worse than shifting the deckchairs on the Titanic. Overworked taff will be paid more to work indcredibly harder with less staffing hours to try & meet standards of care & expectations of the public & accreditation agency. Surely Blind Freddie can see this is an impossible task. I can not in my wildest dreams understand how VEOs are giving accolades to the budget. Obviously they have no understanding of how hard staff work

  2. I agree with Abbots caution. Gillards proposals sound cute only on the surface. Yet no projects of sensible substance or any difference in monetary allocation occur except for where fees by users would rise.More money spent on podiatry, optometry, dental care, facilitating access to physiotherapy including swimming can sustain health longer. Then at retirement providing education in using microwaves, frozen foods, using dryers, easy to use vacuum cleaners, setting up a house safely- even including renovations that are subsidised, possibly down sizing to smaller homes etc.,basic pc skills, shopping for groceries online would facilitate a lengthier time in the home without as many costly home support services. That’s if the aging population were informed and assisted in the stage they can set up a life modified for aging.The claim to keep more people at home with funding packages is laughable. Those qualifying are at a serious level of support needing 24hr supervision and care. No package provides that, still reliant on someone being their carer who is personally connected and copes badly at their own detriment. Only very large families who properly share amiably that care do this well and they are few in numbers. Make it mandatory for receiving the aged pension to attend such courses and offer it free to those who aren’t eligable for a pension retiring at any age. Once people hit dementia or higher care needs re presence of others 24hrs day the reality is residential care where the greatest sums of money need to go aside from preventative allied health and planning. I used to organise services as a social worker for the aged and saw the funding that was limited going into much that could have been avoided by better use and education earlier that then was inadequate for real timely needs later and the suffering ensuing. I had home carers hanging out washing after client used washing machine then other cares bringing it in when put in a dryer not needed. Cognisant elderly with meal on wheels could for a lesser cost use a frozen meal microwaved since complaining about meals anyway. Elderly to frail to use a small nozzled vacuum cleaner to do their carpet yet would have been able to easily use an upright vacuum cleaner. The saving our subsidised services would have made on even purchasing a dryer or upright vacuum cleaner or microwave oven for the clients would have been recouped in a fraction of service time.Properly prepared the aged are able to shuffle around managing light activities and would have needed very little attendance regarding essentials. Keeping a person at home for a brief end of life stage is one of the constructive options if they had been relatively well functioning earler. Before too much enthusiasm goes into keeping the heavier going cases at home governments ought to recognise that research on those involved in being carers is showing very worrying results and that the previous and current carers took on this task it was with no understanding of how onerous or complex it would be, but more recently more people are developing knowledge of what may be entailed and won’t do this anymore in the same numbers as before. Unfortunately the recent recommendations are out of date already and still not looking at the right path but how to better a wrong path. So Abbot do keep holding your horses and explore more fully before committing.

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