One in ten Australians is prepared to pay up to $30,000 a year for care to remain at home and almost three quarters say they would pay around $10,000 a year to avoid residential care.

The findings are contained in a survey of 10,000 people released on Thursday by the Royal Commission Into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which shows people want high quality aged care and are prepared to pay for it, either through taxes or co-contributions.

“When asked about their willingness to pay to receive an extended home care package to allow them to remain living at home rather than entering a residential care facility, a significant majority of respondents indicated a willingness to pay a co-contribution to facilitate this,” the  Flinders University researchers found.

Source: Royal Commission Research Paper 6 – Australia’s aged care system: assessing the views and preferences of the general public for quality of care and future funding.

Royal Commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs say the world-first research confirms that Australians want quality aged care and believe that funding is part of the solution.

Recognition of need for funding

Lead researcher Julie Ratcliffe says the findings highlight the need for a national conversation on future aged care funding.

Julie Ratcliffe

“It’s clear that the general public feel you need to prioritise aged care and that the aged care sector does need significant reform, and they recognise that that will require additional funding from government,” she told Community Care Review.

“A significant proportion – around 10 per cent – would be willing to pay around $25,000 or $30,000 a year out of their own income to avoid moving into residential care.”

Professor Ratcliffe said many participants were shocked that Australia only spends 4 per cent of tax revenue on aged care.

“Every one commented more or less that was really quite low,” she said.

“Sixty per cent of our sample said … that should be increased to a mean of 8 per cent on average, so a doubling essentially of what we currently spend.”

She said the survey of adults aged 18-91 who were not receiving aged care, showed the public felt the aged care workforce is under-paid, under-valued an often insufficiently trained, and recognised the need for increased funding to lift quality and safety.

Most in favour of doubling tax rate

Nearly 90 per cent of those surveyed agreed there should be more funding for aged care and almost 60 per cent said public spending should be reallocated to do this.

Most people also said they would be willing to make co-contributions for access to aged care in the future and 72 per cent would be willing to pay a larger co-contribution to get the support they need to stay at home.

The average co-contribution amount these respondents were willing to pay to avoid moving into residential care was $184 per week (equating to $9,568 per year).

On average respondents said they’d pay $165.50 in co-contributions a week for satisfactory home care and $241 a week, or $78 more, for high quality care.

If they had to move into residential care, they would pay $529 a week for satisfactory care – compared to the current weekly average of $500 – and $693 for high quality residential care.

Source: Royal Commission Research Paper 6 – Australia’s aged care system: assessing the views and preferences of the general public for quality of care and future funding.

Most people said they would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund good aged care, with taxpayers saying on average they would pay 1.4 per cent more tax for quality care and more than 3 per cent more for high quality care.

Paying for quality care

Those surveyed considered being treated with respect and dignity, having appropriately trained staff and having access to health and wellbeing service to constitute “satisfactory” aged care.

Being able to lodge complaints that are acted upon took the care level to high or very quality.

Being supported to make independent decisions about care and services was less important.

“This report shows the general public recognise the current deficiencies of Australia’s aged care system and believe significantly more government funding should be allocated to achieve higher quality aged care,” the report concludes.

“In addition to using co-contributions based on care recipient’s capacity to contribute, it shows a majority of current income taxpayers would be willing to pay more income tax to ensure a high-quality aged care system is achieved.

“These findings provide an important and timely societal perspective with which to inform aged care policy and practice in Australia and in other countries which share similar values, aspirations and circumstances.”

Access Research Paper 6 – Australia’s aged care system: assessing the views and preferences of the general public for quality of care and future funding here.

This story first appeared in Community Care Review.

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