Welcome to Friday’s news wrap:
- Peak bodies meet new minister
- Seniors wanted for social connectedness survey
- Minister and state peak CEO debate ceased payroll-tax subsidy
- Competition to encourage creative dementia therapies
Peak bodies meet new minister
The two national aged care peaks have met with new Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison this week to discuss key sector issues.
Mr Morrison, the former immigration and border protection minister, took over the portfolio on 23 December from Kevin Andrews, who is now Minister for Defence.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Adjunct Professor John Kelly said he discussed the aged care sector reforms, improving leadership in the sector, workforce, regional, remote and rural issues, and the government’s ongoing commitment to reducing red tape with the minister in Sydney on Monday.
Mr Morrison saw a substantial opportunity to make some positive inroads into the provision of care of older Australians, Adjunct Professor Kelly told members in ACSA’s National Report.
Similarly, Leading Age Services Australia CEO Patrick Reid told his members that he had a productive meeting with Mr Morrison in Canberra on Wednesday, where he outlined key sector issues including the need to support and nurture the industry’s management roles.
Mr Reid said the minister was surprised to learn of the high number of small providers and demographics of the age services personnel but understood the need for innovative workforce solutions.
Senator Mitch Fifield remains as Assistant Minister for Social Services and will continue to be responsible for policy, program and regulation aspects of the aged care system.
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Seniors wanted for social connectedness survey
Researchers are recruiting seniors for the second phase of a project examining the social connections of older people and offering participants the chance to win an iPad or cash prizes up to $500.
The ‘Emerging From the Shadows’ project, which was recently featured in AAA Community Care Review [January, 2015], aims to assist aged care providers in developing policy and practice to improve the lives of seniors.
The project, which is responding to growing Australian and international evidence that social connections are declining, is a collaboration between the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne, Curtin University of Technology, Queensland University of Technology and King’s College, London, Anglicare SA, Benetas, COTA Qld, ECH, IRT, Resthaven and Silver Chain.
Researchers are seeking the views of Australians aged 65 years and over living in the community to gain an in-depth knowledge of older people’s experiences of social connections, social support, loneliness and social isolation.
Survey questions cover general information; living arrangements and use of transport; significant life events in the preceding 12 months; level of contact with family and friends; involvement in community activities; level of and feelings about support received from other people; physical and mental wellbeing; and quality of life.
Participants can complete the survey online or request a paper copy to be mailed by contacting Debbie Faulkner on 1800 789 199, 08 8313 3230 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and enter a draw to win an iPad or $500 (first prize) or one of 20 prizes of $100 each.
The survey closes 31 March 2015.
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Minister and state peak CEO debate ceased payroll-tax subsidy
Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield and Leading Aged Services of SA CEO Paul Carberry went head-to-head on Adelaide radio on Thursday morning over the government’s cessation of the aged care payroll tax subsidy, which took effect on 1 January.
As previously reported by AAA, the government announced in the May Budget it would stop paying the subsidy in a bid to save $652 million over four years. The subsidy, which had been in place since 1968 to give aged care providers a level playing field, was paid mostly to for-profit providers to reimburse State Government payroll taxes, which most not-for-profits are exempt from.
Mr Carberry told Adelaide radio 5AA the payroll tax produced a significant cost inequality of, on average, $2,350 per resident per year, which providers would have to absorb while still delivering the same high standards of care.
“The government has just made their task so much harder by cutting these funds,” he said.
In response, Senator Fifield repeated previous comments that the government had agreed with the Commission of Audit that the payroll tax supplement should be considered by state governments, which were responsible for administering and exempting the tax.
He also said that while ceasing the payroll tax supplement was a reduction in funding for providers, at the same time providers received a 2.4 per cent increase in the base subsidy as a result of the government returning the $1.1 billion from the now defunct workforce supplement to the general pool of funding.
“I’m not saying that that completely covers for all providers the reduction in the payroll tax supplement, but it did for a lot of providers constitute a significant offset. So you’ve really got to look at both sides of the equation,” said Senator Fifield.
However, Mr Carberry said the 2.4 per cent increase to subsidies was irrelevant to the discussion because it did nothing to address the cost neutrality issue.
Senator Fifield argued the increase in funding was relevant but said he accepted Mr Carberry’s point on competitive neutrality, and reiterated it was an issue for state governments.
Elsewhere, Mr Fifield said that while the Federal Opposition has been critical of the government’s decision, it had not said it would overturn or reinstate the payroll tax supplement.
Mr Carberry argued that the Commonwealth was responsible for the aged care system, not the states, but said if the decision wasn’t overturned there was no choice for providers but to find a way to cope.
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Competition to encourage creative dementia therapies
A New South Wales aged care provider and university have teamed up to boost the innovation of multidisciplinary creative therapies for aged care residents with dementia through a competition, which offers the winner a $15,000 scholarship prize.
Hunter Valley Care and the University of Newcastle are inviting students to design, develop and assess a 12-month dementia therapy program for aged care residents that focuses on a creative area such as music or art.
Organisers are calling on participants to build on existing research indicating that creative therapies do improve the cognitive function and mental wellbeing of people with dementia in aged care.
The Creative Dementia Therapy Scholarship is open to single or group applicants, who are further encouraged to collaborate with students from other disciplines, enrolled in any program or course – post-doctoral, doctoral, master, or bachelor level – at the University of Newcastle.
The winning applicant or applicants will then put the program into practice before evaluating and analysing it after its initial 12-month implementation.
Entries close 30 April.
See the Creative Dementia Therapy Scholarship website for full details.