However, 12 months on from the searing final report delivered by the aged care royal commission, industry leaders sense the reform process could likely derail, particularly with the pandemic further worsening intense workforce shortages and funding limit pressures.
Labor has weighed in believing the condition of the sector to be a “national disgrace”, however, Senator Colbeck has returned that the government is dedicated in its handling, establishing $18.3 billion towards the “most comprehensive response to a royal commission in history”.
Minister Colbeck conveyed to The Herald Sun the new funding model – commencing October 1 – would be instituted instead of the current “not fit-for-purpose” scheme, the model to assess the cash necessary for providers stemming from individual resident requirements.
As wages currently contribute to 70% of care expenses, coupled with the independent workplace umpire looking to urge a pay increase shortly, Senator Colbeck says that additional assistance was imminent.
“The sooner it’s resolved, the better … The government’s going to have to deal with that,” he commented.
A recent Australian Aged Care Collaboration survey has uncovered widespread uncertainty among two-thirds of aged care providers towards the reform process as it stands – minimal transparency, inadequate consultation and vague commitments being at the height of their frustrations.
Sean Rooney, a leading Aged Care Services Australia (ACSA) head, noted that the sector had repeatedly brought its concerns to the government, warning, “The reform process to date runs the risk of not achieving its aims.”
Senator Colbeck acknowledged the reform process to be complicated, particularing throughout the pandemic, however, he noted his weekly meetings with industry leaders and said they were permitted to “ask me anything they like”.
“I don’t know that there’s been a minister ever who’s had that level of engagement with the sector,” he commented.
Yet other voices differ, Aged Care and Community Services Australia (ACCSA) chief Paul Sadler argued that even with a year past the conclusion of the royal commission, there is now “an absolute crisis in aged care”.
He assessed that the vital opportunity for change needed to be “grasped by the government and not lost altogether”.
“Action on royal commission-recommended reform was slow during 2021,” Mr Sadler argued.
Continuing, “The workforce shortages are acute and are set to continue … The government response failed to improve aged care wages and did not resolve how the growing aged care sector is to be financed in the longer term.”
Ian Henschke, National Senior Australia chief, conveyed that COVID had “amplified the problems” within the sector, with experienced personnel leaving and senior Australians attempting to remain out of residential care.
Senator Colbeck highlighted the 29,000 students that had enrolled in JobTrainer aged care training programs in recent months, and argued that a new workforce strategy, to be announced July 1, would expand on additional positive changes.
He outlined that as of October, aged care facilities would be needing to hit new standards; a minimum of one registered nurse is to be on site for at least 16 hours a day, and each resident is to receive a minimum of 200 minutes of care time per day.
Senator Colbeck has assessed that the home care labourforce has increased by 15,000 personnel in the last 3 months, while the government contributed 770 additional care packages a week. Further data shows that $12 billion has been paid to drastically reduce the home care waiting list from around 130,000 to now below 70,000.
However, strong opposition to the government’s handling has been heard, and opposition aged care services spokeswoman Clare O’Neil has been clear in her assessment – the condition of the sector is a “national disgrace”.
“So far, I think you’d struggle to find a resident or aged care worker who would tell you they’ve seen any noticeable improvements – if anything, things are getting worse,” she argued.
“It’s a disgrace how much of that work has been cast aside. We will pick it straight back up and ensure it guides reform.”
Senator Colbeck – who has long fronted demands from Labor to step down as COVID overwhelmed aged care facilities during the summer – noted that the opposition had a “political strategy but they don’t have a policy strategy”.
Ms O’Neil assessed that over half of the royal commission’s 148 recommendations had either been disregarded or had been inadequately implemented – these assessments being swiftly criticised by Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt, who noted that 135 were currently being addressed completely or in part.
“As a minister, this will be one of the most important reforms that I will have achieved during my time in government,” he strongly noted.