The health department reviewed a fraction of residential aged care funding claims last financial year compared to previous year, but the proportion of funding downgrades remained steady.

The Department of Health reviewed 1,127 Aged Care Funding Instrument claims in 2020-21.

It reduced funding in 38 per cent of cases (431) and only increased finding in two (0.2 per cent), according to the 2020-21 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act report released on Friday.

While there were more than four times as many reviews in 2019-2020 (4,517) the department also reduced funding in 38 per cent of these (1,698) and increased funding in 0.4 per cent (20).

However, in 2018-19, the department conducted almost six times as many reviews (6,600), reduced funding in 43 per cent of these (2,854 claims) and increased funding in 21 funding increases (0.3 per cent).

In 2020-21, the department finalised 41 of 54 provider requests to review the downgrade decision.

It confirmed 30 downgrades (73 per cent), reinstated nine to the original classification (22 per cent) and made a new reduction ruling on two (5 per cent).

The report shows that at 30 June, 830 approved providers operated 2,704 residential aged care services and cared for 183,894 permanent residents, up from 182,705 permanent residents in 2019-20.

In 2020-21, the Federal Government spent $23.6 billion on services for 1.5 million aged care recipients including $14.1 billion on residential aged care, up from $21.2 billion and $13.4 billion respectively in 2019-20.

The report also highlights the $2.1 billion in Government funding spent since the COVID-19 pandemic began in aged care-specific measures to support the resident care as well $17.7 billion package in response to the aged care royal commission recommendations.

The report also details the 2020 Aged Care Approvals Round, which was the sector’s final funding round ahead of the transition to allocating places directly to consumers.

As previously reported, the round allocated 4,098 residential aged care places, 1,028 short term restorative care places and $150 million in capital grant funding for residential care services.

Dementia support on the rise

The report also shows an increase in uptake for the national dementia support services operated by Dementia Support Australia.

In 2020-21, the second-tier Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service supported 28,481 cases, a 28-per-cent increase on the previous year.

The mobile Severe Behaviour Response Teams, which offer a third level of support, supported 1,478 cases, a 10-per-cent increase on the previous year.

Feedback found 97.3 per cent of clients were satisfied with DBMAS and SBRT services. Approximately 72 per cent of referrals were from major cities with the remaining 28 per cent from regional and remote areas, according to the report.

In joint statement with Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck and Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and said the report offered important insight into the sector’s operations during the 2020-21 financial year.

Mr Hunt said the Government has worked to support the aged care sector through the pandemic to protect care aged care residents.

“This support was wide-ranging and included improved infection-control management and training, workforce support and extra funding to cover the increased costs of caring for older Australians during the pandemic,” Mr Hunt said.

Mr Colbeck noted the progress underway on aged care reforms including strengthened  transparency measures,  additional home care packages and a consumer engagement hub.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the sector to implement reforms that will ensure Australia’s aged care system leads the world now and in the future,” Mr Colbeck said.

Other key facts

In 2020-21:

  • 52.4 per cent of permanent aged care residents have a diagnosis of dementia
  • 243,117 people received permanent residential aged care
  • 82.9 is the average age of men at the time of admission to permanent residential aged care
  • 85 is the average age of women at the time of admission to permanent residential aged care
  • 939 approved providers of home care packages
  • 128 approved providers of flexible care
  • 176,105 people in a home care package
  • 229,547 flexible aged care places.

Access the report.

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