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Friday, December 8, 2023

Lift in aged care wages not in Budget plan

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A fundamental redesign of aged care is in the works but the higher wages needed to attract thousands of new workers are not in the budget’s five-year plan.

Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said the ongoing wage case before the Fair Work Commission will have to play out. 

The landmark case aims to boost the pay packets of more than 200,000 aged care workers. Closed international borders are another constraint on growing the workforce.

Personal carers starting out in the sector currently earn just $21.96 per hour – with the average carer retiring with a paltry $18,000 in superannuation, according to the Health Services Union.

The $17.7 billion aged care package Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced on Tuesday night was pitched as a “practical and targeted new funding to significantly improve the system” under a five-year plan.

The Federal Budget included almost $8 billion to improve residential aged care with half of that going to a minimum of 200 care minutes per resident each day, and reporting back to families on whether it has happened.

Meanwhile, elderly Australians are dying as they wait for home care packages, which is why the Federal Government plans to roll out 40,000 packages this year and 40,000 the following year to clear the backlog.

“Our genuine desire is to make available care for people when they need it, and of course in the two years between now and while those 80,000 packages are being rolled out, our proposal is to completely reform the way the home care system is delivered,” Colbeck told ABC radio on Thursday.

The plan is to scrap the complicated ranking of people under level one, two and three of care and replace it with individual, tailored care by the end of 2023.

“This is about a fundamental, generational redesign of the system,” Colbeck said.

Critics lambasted Colbeck’s handling of aged care after COVID-19 killed almost 700 Australians in nursing homes.

A ministerial shake-up saw his aged care portfolio handed to health minister Greg Hunt, who took on the budget and reform implications of the aged care royal commission’s findings.

Questions still remain about who will hold the industry accountable, and the Federal Budget did not include a new watchdog.

Instead, Colbeck said the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will get “additional powers and capacity”, and multiple reviews.

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