‘Who will cover the costs of providing choice, dignity and control?’

Consumer education on the reform process and funding to cover the increasing compliance costs associated with the ongoing changes are lacking, writes Yvonne Timson.

Consumer education on the reform process and funding to cover the increasing compliance costs associated with the ongoing changes are lacking, writes Yvonne Timson.

No-one is arguing that our aged care system is in dire need of reform, many of us knew that without the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. But reform is complicated with an ageing population and a government that will always be competing over how the budget should be prioritised.

To be fair, I do not envy the Australian Government having to manage the reform process as the question will always remain, who is going to pay for the increasing needs of an ageing population?

Yvonne Timson

The Australian Government has moved the time frame out one year to 1 July 2024, to deliver a reformed and improved in-home aged care program.

The new rollout date – and the commitment that no existing consumer will lose any in-home aged care services they currently have in place through the Commonwealth Home Support Program or the Home Care Packages Program – is a positive step from the Australian Government.

As providers we should be acknowledging that, whilst working hard to prepare our businesses for the future changes.

Whilst it is great the Australian Government has agreed to fund any direct increase in salaries, two of the biggest challenges we are facing are the communication with consumers to fully understand the reform process and the increasing compliance costs associated with the reforms, without any direct increase in compliance funding for providers.

One of the reasons I care so deeply about the work we do at Community Vision is that I firmly believe everybody should have choice, dignity and control over their lives.

The current system is often confusing for consumers and can make them feel as if they have no choice – and the reform agenda is only making it harder. As providers, we must go on a journey with consumers and work hard to help them understand that, while it may not be perfect, it is what we must work with.

Unfortunately, many consumers believe that as providers of aged care services, our intention is to simply rip them off and that we are only in this sector to make money. This is often due to sensationalised stories they have read or heard.

For 99.9 per cent of us this couldn’t be further from the truth. Trying to explain this – amongst other things including the increasing costs of training staff, ensuring our incident management systems meet standards, and facilitating well-deserved pay increases – seems to be falling on deaf ears.

I feel that sometimes even the communications put out by the Australian Government are supporting this notion of providers ripping people off. Take the most recent publication regarding the Home Care Package fee capping legislation, where the Australian Government fact sheet for consumers begins with, “That’s why the government is taking action to reduce excessive charges and improve your ability to compare prices between providers.”

The increasing costs of running an aged care business is front and centre of all our minds, whether that is the direct costs of fuel, salaries, or compliance costs. Any provider who has just undergone an audit, analysis of what the fee caps mean for budgeting, or the preparation of the new Serious Incident Response Scheme reporting for home care will tell you it is leading to increased costs for management time within our organisations.

If we want to have a quality service, we all agree we need more training and better systems. However, the Australian Government needs to back us in educating the wider community that delivering a reformed and improved in-home aged care program comes at a cost.

A cost I firmly believe is well worth it if it means we are giving the best services and support possible to older Australians. A type of service and support I would want for my own mother.

Which brings us back to the million-dollar question: who is going to cover the increased costs of providing choice, dignity and control in support of every older Australian into the future?

Yvonne Timson is chief operating officer of Community Vision – a not-for-profit community-based provider of home care, disability and family day care service programs in Western Australia

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Tags: aged care reform, community-vision, home care, yvonne-timson,

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