May 11, 2023

‘Excellent first step’ for aged care reform

Jim Chalmers,
Almost $28 billion was allocated to the health and aged care sector in this week’s 2023-2024 Federal Budget. [Source: Twitter]

Key Points:

  • Many changes will come into play and aged care providers, advocacy groups and industry experts are keen to crack on with getting the sector up to scratch after receiving a historic amount of funding
  • Most aged care stakeholders welcomed Tuesday night’s Budget but are seeking more clarification on what some of the changes will mean for them
  • Most agreed there is still more to be done to fix the sector after decades of chronic underfunding but that this is a step toward making it sustainable, attractive and viable for older people, workers and providers

Aged care stakeholders have welcomed the changes announced for the sector in this week’s Budget as a good first step in the right direction and are keen to have some more details on how to implement them properly. 

RSL LifeCare is grateful for the $82.5 million allocated to increase Veterans’ Home Care and Community Nursing fees over four years and Dementia Australia welcomed funding for rarer forms of dementia and longer General Practitioner (GP) consultations, which will benefit people living with dementia, their families and carers.

Catholic Health Australia (CHA) said this Budget helps change “the negative narrative” about the aged care sector.

“The Albanese Government and Aged Care Minister Anika Wells have demonstrated a real willingness to listen and engage with all stakeholders which will greatly assist the delivery of real improvements for aged care residents and an ageing population.”

Work still to be done

But there is no “silver bullet” to fix the sector, according to the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (ACWIC). It said it looks forward to supporting the ongoing reforms agenda and is eager to see further information being provided on both the pay rise for aged care workers and new industry labour agreements.

Deputy Chair, Graeme Prior, said “The solution is more than simply increasing wages. We must improve career pathways and equip workers with the right skills and qualifications to help them do their jobs.”

“Much reform work remains ahead of us, to ensure that the aged care workforce is suitably skilled and able to deliver safe, consistent, and high-quality care services to older Australians.”

As new nursing and care minute requirements are put in place at the start of July, announcements from the Budget are a hopeful liferaft to make aged care more sustainable and to help those already struggling to attract and retain staff. 

“We expect the new funding commitments will help support aged care providers to meet the requirements for increased care minutes and having a Registered Nurse on duty 24/7, so older people will receive the quality care they need,” said The Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tom Symondson said.

“That’s why we welcome the Government’s commitment to fund the establishment of the Aged Care Sustainability Taskforce, to provide advice on a sustainable aged care system. ACCPA has been calling for a national conversation about the sustainability of the sector, ensuring we have the funding we need to provide quality aged care services.” 

Mr Symondson explained how sustainability could be achieved by consumer contributions from those who can afford to pay more – meaning wealthier older people would pay more for some aged care services. He was also glad the Government listened to ACCPA’s advice to postpone the rollout of the Support at Home Program by another 12 months to ensure it is efficient and not rushed. 

Pay rise concerns

Not all concerns have been put to bed though, as health unions still worry about how the 15% pay increase will be passed onto aged care workers. 

While the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has welcomed the pay rise like everyone else, they have re-emphasised the need for the Government to enforce tight-rules on providers’ use of the money.

“We will continue to work constructively with the Government to ensure this happens.”

How do you feel about the latest Federal Budget? Let us know in the comments below. 

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