May 15, 2024

“Unsurprising & Unsatisfying: Aged Care Figures React To The 2024 Federal Budget

“Unsurprising & Unsatisfying: Aged Care Figures React To The 2024 Federal Budget
"Goverment hasn't increased wages, The Fair Work Commission increased the wages." [CoPilot].

As the dust settles on the 2024 Federal Budget, voices from the aged care sector are emerging to dissect its implications. Speaking to HelloCare, Pat Sparrow, Chief Executive of COTA (Council on the Ageing) and Frank Price, CEO of residential aged care provider RFBI shared their thoughts on budgetary allocations for the aged care sector and older Australians across the country.

Price’s appraisal of the budget was succinct yet critical. “Unsurprising and unsatisfying,” he remarked, encapsulating his sentiments towards the government’s fiscal plan.

His dissatisfaction stemmed from several key areas, notably the incremental nature of wage increases for aged care workers and a perceived lack of innovation.

“There’s no reference for investment in additional aged care beds. We’ve got an issue, there’s nowhere near enough new aged care beds coming on the market. And there’s a lot of old stock that will have to come off at some stage,” said Price.

”When it comes to building aged care beds or aged care facilities, if you start today, they may be effective in two and a half, three years from now. It’s a long time to wait.” 

Price highlighted the absence of innovative measures to incentivise investment, warning of potential consequences for consumers, particularly in locations where occupancy rates are already at or above 95%.

Addressing the delay in implementing wage increases, Price reiterated his commitment to RFBI staff. “My commitment to the RFBI staff is that they will get an increase on 1 July,” he affirmed, emphasising the importance of honouring wage adjustments in a timely manner.

“If you’re meant to get a 10% increase, and we don’t get funded till January, we’ll give you (and I pluck a figure out of the air) we’ll give you 4% on 1 July, in advance, and we’ll give you the other 6% in January. So we will wear that 4% for the first six months,” Price assures RFBI aged care staff.

“We’ve got to do it, these people are the backbone of aged care, to treat them as anything else is simply wrong.” 

Home Care

Reflecting on the $2.2 billion investment earmarked for aged care reforms, COTA’s Pat Sparrow acknowledged “there are some important measures in the budget,” before turning her thoughts to the underwhelming figure of an additional 24,100 Home Care Packages being allocated for 2024/25. 

“We know that’s not really enough,” she asserted, expressing concern over prolonged wait times for essential services and their impact on individuals’ well-being.

Sparrow emphasised the importance of prioritising home care as a fundamental pillar of aged care reform.

“We think that what Government should be doing is looking at making sure the investment they put into home care means that older people don’t have to wait for more than 30 days after their assessment,” she said, lamenting the impact that prolonged home care waiting times have on older Australians and their families.

“These gaps risk exacerbating wait times for essential services, potentially pushing vulnerable individuals into premature residential aged care or compromising their health outcomes.”

Does Not Compute

Reflecting upon the needs of older Australians outside of the aged care sector, Sparrow raised concerns regarding the accessibility and inclusivity of expanding digital ID systems.

While acknowledging the potential benefits, she underscored the need to ensure that older Australians, especially those unfamiliar with digital platforms, are not marginalised or excluded from essential services.

“There’s going to be a $1 billion investment in MyGov and Services Australia plus $288 million if that’s to expand our digital ID systems. Now, if you’re like me, and you don’t have a driver’s license, it’s actually really hard to prove who you are,” said Sparrow.

Pat Sparrow revealed that there are currently 2.1 million Australians without any government-issued photographic ID such as a driver’s license and hopes that the Federal Government will move to recognise other forms of ID so that no one is left behind.

RFBI, CEO Frank Price raised other concerns when it comes to budgetary allocations for investments in IT. 

“They’re talking about money and IT investments to be able to deal with the new Aged Care Act, but that money is all going within the Government to various Government departments. So how much is actually coming to the industry?” he said. 

A Slight Reprieve 

The increased cost of living in Australia has created a nightmare scenario for countless families. For seniors living at home, many of whom rely upon their pensions, Pat Sparrow believes that last night’s budget will have provided some much-needed relief.

“Things like the $300 energy bill rebate are really important,” said Sparrow. “Research is showing that one in four people actually can’t afford to pay their energy bills. So this is going to be an important relief measure.”

Sparrow highlighted the importance of two other key budgetary measures. Firstly, she underscored the significance of the five-year freeze on what pensioners and concession cardholders pay for PBS medications, noting the financial struggles faced by older Australians in affording essential medications.

“Older people often require medication but can struggle to afford it. Some even resort to things like not taking (their medication) every day and trying to take it every second day to make it last. So anything that can make that cheaper and help them to take care of their health is really important.”

Additionally, Sparrow discussed the 10% increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance, acknowledging the challenges experienced by older renters in meeting housing costs. 

She noted the positive impact of the increase, particularly in light of the financial strain faced by many older Australians. However, she also expressed the view that further increases are necessary, suggesting that a 60% increase over two years would better address the financial needs of older renters.

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  1. Aged Care services have become a rort just like Pink Batts and NDIS. I am on Level 2 and need a person to mow my lawns and trim the edges. An aged care provider supplied a man to do the job and it cost $165 for an hours work. I considered it excessive and discontinued the service. I now have a local man do the same job for $50 and I pay him myself. The more the system is rorted the less there is for other people who need the services too.

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