The survey, which was reported in The Australian, appears to have been conducted for political reasons, revealing the views of 360,000 Victorians from the state electorates of Bentleigh, Brighton, Carrum, Eureka, Eltham, Evelyn, Kalkallo and Melton. It was conducted in November.
Of the survey respondents, 80% said they had not seen any “marked improvement” in aged-care services since the Morrison government injected $17.7 billion into the sector.
More than 20% of those surveyed said they don’t expect standards to improve in the next 12 months.
Nearly half – 45% – feared aged care providers put profits before quality of care, and more than one quarter – 26% – said they were worried about poorly paid and trained staff.
Ian Yates AM, chief executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA), told HelloCare there has been a “huge” amount of change going on behind the scenes in aged care that might not be visible to the public.
Providers are deeply engaged in industry consultation and implementing changes that have already been brought in, to the extent many are reporting having to work extremely hard to keep up.
In particular, Mr Yates said it was encouraging to see the “hot button” issue of home care waiting lists shorten significantly, though there are still 75,000 people waiting to access home care.
Some high-priority level 4 home care packages are being allocated within two months now, whereas it was taking over a year previously.
The new restrictive practices regime is also having a “real impact” on provider practices, making them consider new ways of caring for people living with dementia without resorting to restraints.
The fact that the last Aged Care Approvals Round has been conducted, and we are already in the transition period until 1 July 2024, when residential aged care places will be allocated directly to care recipients, is “huge”, he said.
However, Yates conceded there are still problems related to workforce and the findings of the royal commission that require attention.
Aged Care Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Paul Sadler, told HelloCare, “Most of the government’s investment of $17 billion over five years in response to the Aged Care Royal Commission is yet to come.”
The mandated 200 minutes of care per resident per day is not coming into effect until October 2023 and there has “not yet been any funding released to increase staffing levels in residential care,” he said.
The pandemic has created “an immediate workforce crisis”, he said, with some aged care providers reporting vacancy rates as high as 20% of all staff positions.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), of which ACSA is part, is calling on the government to immediately remedy the “well-known issues plaguing the aged care workforce”, including recruiting and retaining skilled and experienced staff.
“We also need the government to release funding it has approved, such as the funding for the home care workforce attraction and retention program,” he said.
Aged care providers remain under significant financial pressure, Mr Sadler said.
The AACC has launched an Aged Care Reform Scorecard to monitor progress on Royal Commission-recommended reform and ensure it’s on track.
The scorecard will consider if the reforms are on time, have they met expectations and are they instilling confidence in the future.
The inaugural report finds there are few tangible milestones to report in the first six months after the Commission’s report was handed down, and provider confidence with the process is low.
Mr Sadler said, “Progress over the past six months has been disappointingly slow.
“Providers have significant concern that the reform process is too slow and lacks transparency.”
The survey shows the long-standing challenges of finding suitable people to work in aged care have been exacerbated by the pandemic and remain one of the biggest challenges.
CEO Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Sean Rooney, said, “The challenge for aged care providers in finding skilled staff is now a genuine crisis.”