The fight is about to begin

LASA and ACSA have both announced plans to launch campaigns to fight for more funding and convince the federal government to reverse changes to the ACFI.

By Yasmin Noone

The sector’s two national peak bodies have each formally announced their intentions to publically protest the reduction in aged care funding and fight the federal government’s 2012/13 budget decision to cut $500 million of funding from care subsidies.

The newly formed advocate for not-for-profit, for-profit and retirement living providers, Leading Age Services (LASA), was the first of the two peak groups to announce plans to launch an industry Living Longer Living Better (LLB) campaign to convince the federal government to reverse recent funding cuts immediately.

LASA spokespeople mentioned an ‘upcoming campaign’ at the Aged and Community Care Victoria (ACCV) conference last week and officially stated it will launch a campaign soon via national member communiqué released yesterday. 

The urgent announcement, which included a call for widespread member support once the new national campaign is launched, was coupled with the publication of an “Open letter to the Prime Minister of Australia” in yesterday’s edition of The Australian newspaper by the SA-state association of LASA.

“LASA members from across Australia have expressed their astonishment that funding cuts of this size to residential aged care, have occurred under the banner of the government’s Living Longer. Living Better (LLLB) package, when the savings announcement for the 2012/13 financial year was $50.1M,” reads the member update signed by CEO, Gerard Mansour, and released yesterday.

“LASA strongly opposes the need for any such reductions in residential aged care funding, particularly given that until now the ACFI was making positive steps forward in better matching care needs with appropriate levels of funding. LASA understands the level of consternation these funding cuts have caused to aged care providers across Australia.”

“…In the near future we will be seeking your assistance, and practical involvement, to help our national and state LASA associations mount a targeted campaign to convince government to provide additional funding and overturn this funding cuts decision.”

Earlier today, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) informed its members of its own plans to “undertake an email campaign targeted at Members of the House of Representatives and Senators followed by a major lobbying campaign in Canberra” in its national newsletter.

The campaign will coordinate a petition to be presented to the Commonwealth parliament, and collect data from facilities of the effects of this reduced funding on direct care, staffing and care-related services.

The not-for-profit peak body also told its members that the ACSA board had previously held an emergency meeting to consider the ACFI changes proposed by the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA), and called for them to be delayed “as the process had been rushed and appeared to have many unintended negative consequences”.

“ACSA has consistently informed the Minister and DoHA that we disagree with the assumptions made by DoHA under their modeling and relied upon by the Minister in reaching his decision to reduce ACFI subsidies,” the ACSA statement, printed in its national member newsletter today, states.

“Unfortunately, the Minister has not been prepared to entertain the commissioning of an independent cost of care study.

“ACSA has informed the Minister that the effects will be felt through reduction in staff numbers and the ability to provide the care and meet quality outcomes for residents, particularly those with the highest care needs – as they will be the ones with the greater dollar value removed from their care funding.”

ACSA CEO, Adj Prof John G Kelly, has also advised members that the group will continue to be a part of the monthly monitoring and quarterly review process to ensure that the reductions are not greater than the government has announced; and encourage Minister Mark Butler “to consider a number of initiatives to bring forward income producing streams from 2014 to 2013 within the current Reform Agenda program, as well as offer Assistance Packages for facilities that experience financial stress as a result of these reductions”.

Both the LASA and ACSA campaigns will involve aged care providers and the community, and use media and political lobbying strategies to get the ACFI reduction decision reversed and/or get more funding.

LASA’s board is currently finalising the finer details of their campaign, however, according to yesterday’s statement it has already decided on its key components.

“LASA is writing to both the Minister and the Prime Minister, who jointly launched the LLLB package, requesting urgent talks to seek a reversal to these cuts,” the members notice said.

“Individual aged care providers will be asked to brief their local MPs about this critical issue and the need for government action to restore funding.

“We are developing an on-line modeling tool which will allow providers to assess the impact of the funding changes on their own operations…[and] specific case study examples to outline the impact of these funding cuts to the care which can be provided.”

The ACFI is the system which determines the amount of funding paid by the government as subsidies for the care of aged care residents. Introduced in 2008, one of its original objectives was to better match funding to the care needs of residents.

Last Thursday, the federal government announced it would introduce three key changes to the ACFI, to be made effective on July 1 2012.

Two of the three changes target price gouging and rorting in the sector, which has led to “unprecedented increases in claiming levels”, while the third is a savings component that will come from a one-off reduction to the subsidy across all care levels.

Other changes include the tightening of the evidence requirements for certain ACFI questions, effective from 1 January 2013, which will apply to areas where there has been high growth in claiming but currently low requirements for evidence requirements.

As reported earlier by AAA, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, says the changes are necessary to address the unforeseen blow-out in the cost of the new instrument, compared to the government’s budget estimates, since its introduction in 2008, but says it does not represent a reduction in overall funding per resident.

Tags: acaa, accv, acfi, acsa, budget, canberra, doha, funding, gillard, lasa, minister-butler, pm, sa, the-australian,

6 thoughts on “The fight is about to begin

  1. Our aged care industry peak bodies may have been too premature in endorsing the Longer Living, Better Living aged care reform package because from early days it was rather shallow, offering only some of the reform that was really needed but still with inadequate funding. Pulling funds out of ACFI to the tune of $500M in the coming year has essentially stripped the package and eroded the base for building upon. For those still in the tent, be aware of the smoke and mirrors that is being used. It’s gloves off, not so much for the rescare providers but more for the frail aged who will be looking for places after 1/7/12

  2. This “reform” was a con from day one. Providers are investing tens of millions of dollars into new aged care facilities and then the government shifts the goalposts and reduces our funding?

    How are we supposed to pay the bank back!? This is treachery of the highest order.

  3. Increasing operational costs to meet the care needs of the residents and wage increases for staff. Now in a a momment of overnight madness a slash in government funding. How on earth are we able to operate in this industry when goal post continue to change. I cant see aged care being financially sustainable for the baby boomers who want the Hilton soon.

  4. With the growing need of aged placements and the already low pay rates in aged care sectors the ACFI reduction will greatly impact on delivery of required care to residents.
    this is a significant blow to all residential aged care service providors.
    As we try to care for the elderly without the ability to provide equipment and correct staffing levels to meet demand, this will be felt widely and will affect our elderly in residential care.
    Sandra Miller RN

  5. Whilst peak provider and consumer bodies initially were all full of praise for the Government’s Aged Care Reforms, you only had to analyse the package beyond the Prime Minister’s rhetoric,the Minister’s spin and the Lobbyists’ glow to be concerned about the negative impacts on our industry. Now that more detail has been released its quite clear that the future will be pretty Revenue reduction of $1.6M over 5 years (ie an average $8,000 per bed!!!!), no retentions on bonds, the Aged Care Gateway, the Aged Care Financial Authority, Aged Care Reform Implementation Committe,a new Aged Care Quality Agency and My Aged Care Website (analogous to MySchools website). Quite a challenging set of paradigms. Whilst we supported the Productivity Commission’s recommendations for a freer market we ended up with more price control, more supply control, more quality control, more admission control, more bureaucracy and more business risks – not bad for Reforms which had an objective of setting the picture for the demographic, financial and social changes over the next decade or so.How are we going to provide choice and care into the future when the viability of the residential aged care sector will be seriously and possibly fatally affected. This clear and present danger will also have as a consequence very little investment in residential aged care for our ageing population.
    PS I forgot to mention the cost of insuring the bonds under the Reforms – some pundits are suggesting as much as $8,000 per bond as the cost. Of course providers who have had sanctions, or high complaint history, eroded bond equity, low asset index, low profit or liquidity ratios etc are likely to pay more for insurances because the underwriters will base the premiums on risk and volumes. The Minister and his advisors will probably say something like this is yet another opportunity for the residential aged care providers to show they can meet the exciting challenges of the future. This is just farcical. The only thing you can say is this demonstrate the lack of support and understanding this government has to our industry, and hence to the PEOPLE WE CARE FOR.
    Historically the governments of the day have viewed our industry with a great deal of disdain and subterfuge. The Gillard government has however set new levels of treachery. Tony Abbott’s Opposition is conspicuous by its silence; so don’t think there will be any relief there either!.Green could be a popular colour at the next election.

  6. I cannot believe once again the governemnt needs to dig its way out of it fiscal misappropriatins, and they take from the area that has the least to give. Aged care is and has always been poorly funded and poorly looked after by both federal and state governments. Our nurses are paid less than their acute counter parts and have a lot more regulations to negotiate on a day to day basis. Now you want to give the homes less than what they get now to cover typical labour blunders. I have no problem with pay increases to politicians but at the expense of the aged is appauling. Giving a tweak to ACFI to make life better is one thing removing 1/3 of most homes budgets yet expecting the same quality of care is damned irresponsible!

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