Above: NSW Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance MP
By Yasmin Noone
State, territory and local governments must not just leave aged care reform to the Commonwealth but instead, carry part of the responsibility themselves in what should be a ‘whole of government’ approach to change, the NSW Minister for Ageing and Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance MP, said in Sydney today.
According to Minister Constance, who officially opened the Aged Care Association Australia-NSW (ACAA-NSW) Congress 2012 earlier this morning, ‘aged care reform’ should not necessarily just mean ‘federal government action’.
And the shift of the Home and Community Care (HACC) program from the states and territories to the Commonwealth in July, he said, does not negate the responsibility of the state and local governments to help improve the lives of older Australians.
“Just because HACC has transferred to the Commonwealth, that doesn’t diminish the responsibility of the state government in the aged care sector,” Minister Constance said.
“The state itself can not just rub its hands and walk away from the aged care sector.”
Instead, he said, the NSW government “wants to work with the Commonwealth”, in particular, to provide a greater breadth of ageing and community-based services that it thinks are important to provide.
“We have to ensure that health and disability and state agencies like the Office of Fair Trading, the Attorney General’s Department – the list goes on – are all able to work efficiently in the overall aged care reform process.”
First and foremost, he said, the NSW Opposition government has committed to demanding more ‘aged care reform’ details from the Gillard government.
The state must also ensure that more money is injected into state-based social and community services that serve older people and young people living in residential aged care facilities.
Mr Constance spoke of his government’s reaction to the Quakers Hill nursing home fire last year, and confirmed its commitment to developing a plan for sprinklers to be installed in every aged care facility across the state.
“We could’ve had a knee-jerk reaction to the [fire] last year…Instead we are now trying to resolve this issue of getting sprinklers in aged care facilities, and not just in aged care facilities.
“But we have to ensure that we do this in a way that doesn’t lead to the closing of aged care facilities [because of the cost of installation]…even if it requires underwriting by government to meet the requirement for sprinklers.”
In order for the government to do that and do it well, the community must come forward and tell the government what it needs and what challenges must be overcome.
“Please come to us should you continue to have concerns in this particular area.”
Mr Constance went on to list his government’s own ‘aged care reform’ activities.
For example, he said, the state is rewriting NSW planning legislation.
The current laws are a “spaghetti bowl of planning instruments and processes that make it incredibly difficult for people to navigate [the system] And, as the MP for Bega, I’ve seen aged care facilities that have struggled, not only with the state planning system but with local government”.
“We want to make sure the [State Planning Authority] is easier not harder to work with and that local government is easier not harder.
“…So it is vital that aged care providers throughout the state provide input into these processes.”
Mr Constance mentioned that the ‘whole of government strategy to ageing’ (or NSW draft Ageing Strategy), which AAA understands was due to be released in early March, will be instead launched in the “next few weeks”.
This strategy should look at the notion of age-friendly communities and cities and address current local and state government solutions to infrastructure and service-based problems associated with ageing.
Age discrimination, elder abuse, issues relating to respect and dignity, and other health matters will also be addressed in the strategy.
“The government at both the state and federal levels need your input in order to make all those reforms a success.”