Many in the aged care sector have been disappointed by the 2019 Federal Budget, welcoming the measures that were announced, but sending a clear message to the government that much more needs to be done.
Most of the aged care measures in the budget – including the 13,500 residential care places, 10,000 home care packages, and the elder abuse hotline – had already been announced.
The biggest disappointment was the lack of new spending on home care. The very network designed to help people stay out of the beleaguered residential aged care system is now in trouble itself. With a backlog of 128,000 people and a waiting list of over a year, many were disappointed that no new home care packages were released.
There was also disappointment from many in the aged care sector that Newstart was not increased, and there was no oral and dental health program for older people.
Council of The Aging chief executive, Ian Yates, said there are “gaping holes” in the budget.
Apart from the absence of new Home Care Packages, no increase in Newstart, and no dental health program for older Australians, Mr Yates was also disappointed the government did not launch a review of Australia’s retirement income system.
However, Mr Yates did welcome the government’s announcement it will remove the work test for superannuation payments for Australians aged 65 and 66, which he said is “good news”.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, said the budget was a “missed opportunity”.
“The major aged care funding measures announced in the Budget tonight were those which had already been announced in February,” a statement from LASA said.
“While this funding and earlier announcements in MYEFO are welcome, industry has made clear that it will not address the urgent challenges facing the sector.”
LASA welcomed the measures that were announced in the budget, including new spending on regulatory measures, an extension of the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, and support for implementation of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy.
But Mr Rooney said the budget showed the government “does not have a strategy to make aged care better right now”.
“Many aged care providers and the older Australians they serve will be rightly disappointed,” he said.
“While the Government has extended Commonwealth Home Support Programme contracts by another two years, it is disappointing that they did not outline a plan to significantly reduce waiting lists for home care packages,” he said.
“It is disappointing that this Budget seems unlikely to change the more than 12 months that older Australians are currently waiting for home care.”
Paul Vesteege, policy manager of the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, said the “tax cut was the unkindest cut of all”.
“This budget doles out money in the form of tax cuts worth $158 billion over the next ten years as if social services are not falling apart at the seams,” he said.
“The Government keeps pandering to the nursing home industry by continuing to pour nursing home places into the system rather than on making sure the demand for Home Care Packages is satisfied.
“Of the 128,000 people waiting for a Home Care Package, 90,000 also have approval to go into a nursing home, but none are moving into the 20,000 nursing home places that are currently spare. They prefer to wait for a Home Care Package, of which there will be tens of thousands too few by the end of the forward estimate period,” Mr Vesteege said.