Treasury submissions received!

The Treasury asked for 2012-13 Budget suggestions and the sector spoke up, telling the federal government that this year should be the year of the aged care budget in a recent ACIC pre-budget submission.

By Yasmin Noone

Political lobbying to make 2012 the year of the aged care budget is ‘officially’ underway, with the Treasury now accepting public submissions on ideas and priorities for its 2012-13 financial plan.

As is the case each year, the aged care sector will have to compete with hundreds of different individuals, businesses and community groups, all vying to have their submissions taken into account by Treasurer, Wayne Swan, and his department this year, just as the government plans to tighten the purse strings and return its next budget to surplus.

However, the sector’s chances of pushing reform over the line in 2012 seem hopeful, with Mr Swan himself stating that providing for ‘the ageing of the population’ will most likely take precedence over other areas.

“The budget is on track to return to surplus in 2012-13 despite the significant global headwinds that have reduced government revenues by around $140 billion over five years,” the Treasurer stated in a press release.

“The government will continue its disciplined approach to spending, while also providing the necessary social protections for the most vulnerable in our community and ensuring our nation is prepared for long-term challenges such as the transition to a clean energy future and the ageing of the population.”

The Aged Care Industry Council (ACIC) – the peak umbrella organisation representing Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) – forwarded its 2012-13 pre-budget submission to the government just prior to Christmas.

The ACIC submission called on the federal government to respond to the recommendations made in the Productivity Commission’s (PC) Caring for Older Australians report this budget and start making monetary allowances for reform implementation.

The submission asks for a public Commonwealth “commitment to and timetable for the phased implementation of an aged care system based on care entitlements and choice”.

It also requests the development of a system of care entitlements, including common funding and assessment mechanisms across community and residential aged care and provision for access to reablement and respite services; and the necessary administrative and legislative requirements and development work to establish a network of Seniors Gateway Centres.

The representative aged care body also requests that in this budget, the government expands community care places above the base-line that would apply under the current rationing arrangements, with an increased emphasis on EACH and EACHD.

“This should be complemented by the introduction of interim intermediate community care packages pending the development of the system of care entitlements, and flexibility for new package,” the submission states.

CEO of ACAA, Rod Young, said he expects the government to “honor it’s commitment to reform by phasing in the implementation of a reformed aged care system based on individual care entitlements and consumer choice of services, consistent with the reforms in the PC’s report”.

“As a short-term measure, pending completion of an independent cost of care study, the residential and community care subsidies for 2012-2013 be increased by the equivalent of the Consumer Price Index.”

President and acting CEO of ACSA, Rob Hankins’s comments echoed Mr Young’s sentiments, saying that budget 2012-13 should provide a starting point for aged care reform.

“It is essential that the 2012 Budget commence the process to gradually increase the accommodation supplement for supported residents and to allow providers to set market based accommodation prices for all non-supported residents, with flexibility for residents to pay by periodic payment or fully refundable bond,” Mr Hankins said.

“The budget should also introduce an intermediate aged care package as an interim measure pending the implementation of an integrated system of care entitlements.”

The Treasurer is expected to announce 2012-13 Budget plans this May.

Mr Hankins said he would welcome an early announcement about aged care reform funding but doubts that it will eventuate.

“I’d be delighted if there is an announcement about aged care reform in May,” he said.

“If the minister sees a way of making some announcement earlier, then that would be positive.

“But, in reality, knowing what the government is trying to deal with, I’m not going to hold my breath [that the government will take action] before May.”

In the meantime, Mr Hankins said the sector will be hard at work campaigning for a bipartisan approach to reform, meeting with front and backbenchers during parliament’s first sitting week (starting 6 February) and raising community awareness about the need for reform.

“It’s fine for the government to give a commitment [to reform the sector in this political term] but I believe that older people want to see that commitment fulfilled.

“…It’s time for change. It is time for the government to start [reforming the sector] and we look forward to the government announcing the start of the aged care reform process.”

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) also recently forwarded its pre-budget submission to Treasury, calling on the federal government to start putting its aged care promises into action.

“When the government was seeking re-election for a second term in 2010, it made a commitment that aged care reform would be a priority during this term,” said CHA chief executive, Martin Laverty.
 
“As we near the halfway mark in that three-year term, it is now time for the government to put its money where its mouth is.”

To view the ACIC submission, visit www.acaa.com.au/files/budget_submission.pdf or www.agedservices.asn.au/publications/acsa-policies-submissions

All pre-budget submissions must be received no later than Friday, 27 January 2012.

To find out more information about the process, click here.
 

Tags: acic, budget, budget-2012-13, cha, martin-laverty, rob-hankins, treasurer, treasury, wayne-swan,

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