The Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt said on Wednesday the federal government was currently considering the recommendations of a series of aged care reviews, but would not be drawn on a direction or timetable for achieving further reform.
Mr Wyatt told the COTA Next Phase of Aged Care Reform conference, the sequencing of reforms was a key consideration for government.
“We are considering these reports in respect to fiscal issues and also in terms of legislative reform that will be needed,” he told the Sydney audience.
He said the government needed to ensure all decisions taken in response to recommendations for future reform were “integrated”.
The recommendations of the Aged Care Legislated Review conducted by David Tune were currently being examined by an ageing taskforce in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The government is also considering the recommendations of the Carnell-Paterson report on quality regulation, the implementation of a single quality framework, a future funding model for residential care and next steps for further reform of the community aged care sector.
Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health Julie Collins called on the government to move faster to adopt a timetable of reform to end the uncertainty facing the sector. “We need clear timeframes and a clear agenda,” she told the industry conference.
Ms Collins also urged a bipartisan approach to aged care.
“I am available and willing and up for the chat with the government so we can have bipartisan support because without it, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Both MPs agreed a wider public conversation on aged care needed to take place.
“We have to have a broader community discussion about what does the future of aged care look like and how are we going to fund it,” said Ms Collins.
Home care wait times
Ian Yates, chief executive of COTA Australia, told the conference one of the biggest issues facing aged care was the “staggering” shortfall in home care packages.
He estimated the gap in funding to meet demand for home care packages was at least $1billion a year, which could not be found from within the existing aged care budget.
“It’s not the elephant in the room, it’s the blue whale. It doesn’t get any bigger than that particular challenge,” Mr Yates said.
Data released in September revealed over 53,000 consumers were waiting to be assigned a package and a further 35,000 were making do on a lower-level package while waiting for their assessed level of care.