New measures against COVID-19 have been unveiled for the aged care sector including a $235 million staff retention bonus for residential and home care providers.
Making the announcement last Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said an additional $92.2 million would be provided for home care and CHSP providers, including services like Meals on Wheels.
The government will also provide $12.3 million to My Aged Care to respond to increasing demand.
“This additional funding is being focussed on those who are most vulnerable, to get them the additional support so they can get access to the essential things they need, particularly through things like Meals on Wheels and home care support and the other things older Australians will need going through this time,” the PM told a media conference.
The announcement followed a meeting of the newly-formed national cabinet which has been established to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.
However there was no mention of the rapid response teams promised by the aged care minister Richard Colbeck at a webinar for home care stakeholders on March 16, as reported by Community Care Review here.
CCR understands a number of providers do not have enough PPE and have been unable to find out how to access a team.
CCR has sought further information from the government on when the teams will be available and how to access them but has not received a response.
In the meantime, the Department of Health has launched a process for aged care providers to order personal protective supplies and a new learning module for aged care workers.
The $234.9 retention bonus is designed to create an incentive for workers to stay with their employers via significant tax-free bonuses
It will mean a payment of up to $800 after tax per quarter – paid for two quarters – for direct care workers and two payments of up to $600 after tax per quarter – for two quarters – for those who provide care in the home.
Payments will be delivered to providers, with part-time workers to be paid a pro-rata rate.
Home care providers and organisations that deliver CHSP, including services such as shopping and meal delivery for people in self-isolation, will get an additional $92.2 million.
Meanwhile there will be $12.3 million to boost the capacity of My Aged Care to meet the surge in aged care specific COVID-19 enquiries and pay for additional staff.
Aged care minister Richard Colbeck says the measures are designed to protect older Australians and the sector as transmission of COVID-19 increased.
“Aged care is a critical sector that faces staffing challenges as existing staff are either subject to self-isolation requirements due to COVID-19 or are unable to attend work,” he said.
“We know we are asking a lot of this critical workforce as we face this unprecedented health emergency.”
Industry says measures welcome but more needed
Aged care industry bodies welcomed the additional support but said it still fell short of what will be required well COVID-19 continued to spread.
“Our sector is at the frontline of a major public health crisis,” an alliance of providers including ACSA, Aged Care Guild, LASA, Anglicare Australia and Baptist Care Australia said.
It said the sector would make a joint proposal to the government outlining the further measures to safeguard older Australians through the pandemic.
The pandemic would create more financial and operational pressures for already stretched providers, the group said.
“These financial risks are as real as the challenges faced by airlines, tourism and hospitality.”
The alliance also said it was happy the government was recognising aged care as an essential service by promising workers prioritised access to diagnostic testing if needed.
COTA said the package provided much-needed support for home care services, which would become increasingly important if social distancing and isolation measures widened.
The union representing aged care workers said it was a recognition of an overworked and understaffed aged care workforce.
But the United Workers Union said the promised funds must not be “soaked up by the top layer or go missing” in red tape.
“The challenge for the Federal Government is to make sure the workers who will be running aged care in this time of crisis get the money they have been promised,” national aged care director Carolyn Smith said.
“We need a fair, transparent and equitable system to deliver the funding as quickly as possible to aged carers – they need this to go straight into their pockets.
“Aged carers will be on the front line of this crisis, and they need all the support they can get.”
More Information is available here:
- Health alerts on Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the health and aged care sector
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) information for older Australians
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) resources