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Friday, December 8, 2023

Govt pledges $17.7b to improve aged care system

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A record $17.7 billion will go toward improving Australia’s aged care system in response to a damning royal commission into the sector, which exposed harrowing tales of abuse and neglect.

The Morrison Government on Tuesday responded to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in its 2021/22 Federal Budget.

The $17.7 billion plan focuses on five areas and is mapped over five years.

The key areas are home care, services and sustainability, quality and safety, workforce as well as governance.

“Senior Australians built our nation,” health minister Greg Hunt said.

“They are our parents and grandparents, our founders and protectors, and they have contributed so much to our Australian communities.

“It is our duty and responsibility to give every Australian the care they need in their later years.”

This year marks the first plank in the plan, with another 40,000 home care packages to be released and a daily fee supplement to be introduced, of $10 per resident per day.

To get the new supplement providers will have to provide annual reports on the adequacy of daily living services they provide, including good, nutrition and cleaning.

Quality standards will be improved for dementia, diversity, food and nutrition, while aged care residents will have increased access to general practitioners. 

More training places will be available for new and existing aged care workers, with scholarships available to attract nurses and personal care staff.

A Council of Elders and an inspector-general of aged care are also set to be in place this year.

Come 2022, another 40,000 home care packages will be released and a new funding model will be introduced.

It takes the total number of new packages to 80,000, which the Federal Government believes will be enough to deal with the waitlist.

Council on the Ageing chief Ian Yates doesn’t expect the 100,000 person waitlist to be worked through until the end of the year at the earliest.

“We don’t have the workforce to do that safely,” he told reporters in Canberra following the Budget.

The new funding model is the Australian National Aged Care Classification, which the government describes as more equitable, particularly for remote, Indigenous and homeless services.

Registered nurses will get financial incentives to stay on, with eligible full-time workers to get $3700 and part-time to get $2700.

The Morrison Government hopes a new Aged Care Act will be in place by 2023, with consultations to begin soon.

New mandatory care time of 200 minutes will also be in place for residential aged care, with penalties for providers who do not meet the requirement.

By December 2025 the Government is aiming for there to be no Australians under the age of 65 living in residential aged care.

The Government rejected six of the royal commission’s 148 recommendations.

The rejected proposals relate to the introduction of an aged care levy and changes to the means test, which the commissioners were split on how to approach.

Rather than a levy, the Government instead plans to pay for the aged care package through stronger economic growth.

The aged care package is a record for the sector and is the biggest response to a royal commission in Australian history.

The two-year inquiry heard countless tales of abuse and neglect in Australia’s aged care system, with up to 18 per cent of residents had been either physically or sexually assaulted.

Some 1.3 million Australians accessed aged care in 2019/20 and that number is expected to grow to 3.9 million by 2050.

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