The federal budget has got a lukewarm response from aged care providers who have welcomed cash to improve the quality of the home care system but say the government has failed to address the ongoing problem of home care wait times.
The budget provides $282.4 million for 10,000 previously announced home care packages, $35.7 million for increased veterans and dementia home care supplements and $5.9 billion to extend CHSP funding for two years.
It also allocates $13.3 million over two years for a home care compliance framework, increased auditing and monitoring of providers and improvements to the quality, safety and integrity of the home care system.
In a bid to address concerns about unspent funds the budget also provides $7.1 million to improve payment administration for home care packages and align home care arrangements with other programs like the NDIS.
However industry peak Leading Age Service Australia (LASA) said all the major funding announcements had already been made.
LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney said while the announcements were welcome, the budget overall showed the government didn’t have a strategy to make aged care better.
“We acknowledge the investment in aged care announced tonight but with a $7.1 billion surplus, many aged care providers and the older Australians they serve will be rightly disappointed,” he said.
“We support measures to improve compliance and increase quality in the sector but the government needs to work collaboratively with industry and focus on improving practices and providing adequate resources.”
He also said despite the extension of CHSP contracts the government had failed to outline a plan to significantly reduce waiting lists for home care packages.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) said providing certainty for CHSP and funding the implementation of the workforce strategy were welcome measures, but they needed to be followed up by co-ordinated whole-of government action.
“The government has responded to increased scrutiny of aged care with a number of compliance and regulatory initiatives, but the hard reality is that so far we’ve really only seen stop gaps,” Patricia Sparrow, CEO of ACSA said.
Ms Sparrow said there was an urgent need to respond to the growing home care waiting list.
“We are disappointed that more was not done in these areas beyond the recent welcome announcements ,” she said.
“Within the next decade we are going need big reforms in response to the challenges and opportunities presented by our ageing nation.
Consumer groups underwhelmed.
But it was “deeply disappointed” with the addition of only 20,000 packages in this financial year, which it said would do little to address the current waiting list of 128,000 people, most of them needing high-care level 3 and 4 packages.
“Only a little over a week ago, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard evidence from senior officials in the Department of Health and Ageing that the home care waiting list could be eliminated through investment of an additional $2-$2.5 billion,” Chief advocate Ian Henschke said.
“Despite this compelling evidence, the Budget handed down tonight only included $282 million, or 10,000 of the additional packages that were urgently required.”
National Seniors called on both the government and Opposition to consider redirecting some of the forecast $7 billion surplus to eliminate the home care waiting list by announcing additional funding during the forthcoming election campaign.
COTA Australia CEO Ian Yates cited the lack of any new home care packages as one of the holes in the budget.
“While older Australians have some good news in the budget, there’s very little real relief in the lead-up to the federal election,” he said. “We need a more integrated, robust and better resourced strategy.”
The opposition said there was nothing new in the budget.
“128,000 older Australians are now waiting for a home care package but the Budget does not deliver one new package the government hasn’t already announced,” Labor spokeswoman on ageing Julie Collins said.
Boost for dementia
The budget also funds dementia measures, with $185 million to establish a Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission and $10 million for a Dementia Centre of Excellence at Curtin Uni.
Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia CEO said the initiatives were a good start but they do not speak to the heart of the problem for people living with dementia, their families and carers – the need for recognition of dementia within the health, ageing and disability industry.
Informal carers get a boost with $84.3 million for the Integrated Carer Support Service
At a glance
- $282.4 million over five years for 10,000 home care packages
- $185 million from 2019-29 to establish a dementia ageing and aged care mission
- $84.3 million for Carers Support Service
- $35.7 for dementia and veterans’ home care supplements
- $18 million for frontline support services for elder abuse, new national hotline
- $13.3 for home care compliance and improved integrity, safety and quality
- $10 million for curtin uni dementia centre of excellence
- $7.1 million to improve home care payment administration
- $7.7 million for home care supplements for dementia and cognition
- $5.9 billion to extend CHSP funding
- $2.6 million for aged care workforce strategy