What happens when the market fails?

An aged care and homelessness advocate asks how a market-driven system will provide for disadvantaged older Australians.

Above: CEO of Wintringham, Bryan Lipmann AM

By Yasmin Noone

The Productivity Commission’s (PC) draft report fails to address how a market-driven aged care system of the future will protect and provide for extremely disadvantaged older Australians, a homelessness advocate has warned.

Wintringham CEO, Bryan Lipmann AM, urged the PC to recommend measures that protect older homeless Australians from instances of market failure in its final report, to be released in June.

“You can see the strengths but there’s also enough in the report to say that I’m as frightened as hell,” Mr Lipmann said at the 20th Tri-State Conference (Albury) last week.

“I’m concerned.”

The PC’s draft report, Caring for Older Australians, proposes a market-driven aged care system, governed by the spirit of provider competition.

“I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. But [the market] doesn’t work for the extremely disadvantaged and certainly not for the homeless.

“The market has to respond in a way that protects the disadvantaged.”

Wintringham is a Victorian-based organisation that provides aged care, community care, housing and support services for the elderly homeless and other disadvantaged men and women.

“[In a market-driven system] the price will be set by a provider who will be happy to take a supported resident, but not they type of client that we take.

“The mainstream provider may say it costs $600 [to care for] each resident but Wintringham says it costs a couple of grand. And no one’s going to give me that. So what happens to the [formerly homeless older person] who costs more?

“There has to be an incentive to make [providers] want to care for them.

“The report also talks extensively about supported residents and the aged homeless [together], yet they are different groups requiring different responses.”

Mr Lipmann also disagrees with the recommended minimum standard of two people per room: “I don’t believe that your level of poverty should determine the minimum standard.”

But, he concedes that the draft report is just that- a draft. “It is up to Wintringham and Gerard [Mansour – CEO of ACCV] to get changes to the draft recommendations”.

“[Wintringham] was established because the aged care system refused to take these guys…It hasn’t changed much.

“…Our job is to take away the terror of the streets and give them somewhere where they can get some joy and peace. We are not interested in turning some of these pretty interesting characters into model citizens.

“We are not working with saints and we are not into rehabilitation….We are trying to give the men and women peace before they die.

Finally, Mr Lipmann asked the PC to pay greater attention to the needs of the older disadvantaged Australians: “Consider the impact of the recommendations on the viability of this organisation.”

Tags: 20th-tri-state-conference, accv, aged-care, bryan-lipmann, caring-for-older-australians, draft-report, homeless, productivity-commission, wintringham,

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