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Thursday, June 30, 2022

COTA VIC gives Andrews State Budget thumbs up, but says some ‘gaping holes’ need addressing

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The Victorian State Government has delivered, with millions being directed toward development and upgrading of new aged care facilities and engagement programs for seniors.

 The key points of investment that will benefit older Victorians include:

  • $146 million for the construction of three new Government-run aged care facilities in Mansfield, Camperdown and Orbost, and for the redevelopment of existing sites in Bright and Heywood.
  • $30 million for places in public residential aged care.
  • $3 million for a range of initiatives for older Victorians and their carers, including continuation of the Victorian Seniors Festival Reminagined, COVIDSafe live performances in aged care facilities and tailored employment support for carers.
  •  $2.9 million to continue the Elder Abuse Prevention Network, addressing family violence for older Victorians.

According to Tina Hogarth-Clarke, CEO of the Council on the Ageing Victoria (COTA VIC), the latest state budget makes a number of offerings that promise to improve the health and wellbeing of older Victorians.

“Pleasingly, the Victorian Government’s Pandemic Repair Plan promises to increase surgical activity by providing 40,000 extra surgeries in the next 12 months.

“COTA Victoria hopes these measures will go some way towards addressing the needs of older Victorians whose health care has been disrupted during COVID.”

COTA VIC CEO Tina Hogarth-Clarke, says that the Victorian State Government’s 2022/23 Budget makes some promising investments in residential aged care, mental health and social and community engagement, but is lacking in other areas.

Furthermore, Hogarth-Clarke commends the State Government for prioritising programs that will aid those experiencing social isolation and loneliness in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic.

“COTA Victoria welcomes funding to support the establishment of ten new social inclusion action groups which will seek to foster connection and reduce social isolation among vulnerable cohorts,” she says.

“It is also good to see funding for a range of initiatives aimed at increasing social inclusion and community connection among Victorians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; particularly since almost 40 per cent of migrants from non-English speaking countries are over the age of 50.”

COTA VIC’s request that the State Government invest in initiatives to bridge the digital divide was also granted, with the Budget indicating that the Department of Fairness and Housing will conduct a review this financial year of how to better encourage digital inclusion of seniors.

COTA Victoria welcomes funding to support the establishment of ten new social inclusion action groups which will seek to foster connection and reduce social isolation among vulnerable cohorts.

CEO, Council on the Ageing Victoria, Tina Hogarth-Clarke

“We know that older Victorians still face high rates of digital exclusion which impact on their ability to access information and services, so this review is a definite step in the right direction and one that will hopefully lead to tangible change.

“In the meantime, we welcome additional funding for libraries and neighbourhood houses — both of which play a critical role in helping older people to stay informed and connected.”

However, Hogarth-Clarke notes that the State Budget 22/23 leaves a number of gaping holes that still need to be addressed, especially in terms of making elder-friendly reforms to public infrastructure.

“While the Budget does include additional funding to improve transport infrastructure and undertake a number of accessibility upgrades, it’s still not enough.”

Because public transport is not always a viable option for older Victorians, COTA VIC has requested increased investment in door-to-door transport — including community transport and taxi and rideshare services — to help older Victorians get where they need to go.

“Without this support, older Victorians experiencing transport disadvantage are at increased risk of becoming socially isolated and may also experience poorer health outcomes because of not being able to travel to medical appointments.”

we would like the Victorian Government to outline how it intends to prioritise the needs of older women experiencing homelessness or housing stress moving forward.

Tina Hogarth-Clarke

The Budget’s Gender Equality Budget Statement does not mention older women specifically, but they may benefit from the State Government’s pledge to increasing social housing supply by an estimated 6000 homes should aid older women, who are at an increased risk of homelessness.

“Given these are generic budget measures, we would like the Victorian Government to outline how it intends to prioritise the needs of older women experiencing homelessness or housing stress moving forward,” Hogarth-Clarke says.

Whilst money has been afforded to elder abuse prevention, COTA VIC would like to see more done to address this injustice, which is experienced by one in six older Australians.

“It is positive to see that funding has been allocated to support the continuation of elder abuse prevention networks, which raise awareness of elder abuse and deliver primary prevention activities,” Hogarth-Clarke says.

“Unfortunately, however, these networks currently only exist in a finite number of geographic locations.

“Long-term funding is needed to facilitate the state-wide expansion of Elder Abuse Prevention Networks…”

Finally, whilst elders living independently could benefit from the cost-of-living relief provided by a one-off $250 Power Saving Bonus, the eligibility of this program is case in point for Hogarth-Clarke’s aforementioned concern about the digital divide.

COTA Victoria welcomes the announcement of a one-off $250 Power Saving Bonus, but this will not go far enough to alleviating the financial burden that is experienced by older people on low incomes, especially given the rising wholesale price of electricity.

Tina Hogarth-Clarke

“COTA Victoria welcomes the announcement of a one-off $250 Power Saving Bonus, but this will not go far enough to alleviating the financial burden that is experienced by older people on low incomes, especially given the rising wholesale price of electricity.

“We are also concerned about how easy it will be for older people who are not online to access this payment, as the Government has stated that it will be available to Victorian households that use the Victorian Energy Compare website to search for the cheapest electricity deal.”

Prior to the release of the Victorian State Budget, COTA VIC presented a detailed submission highlighting key policy areas that needed addressing in order to prioritise the wellbeing of older persons.

Aged Care News discussed a number of these key policy areas with COTA VIC policy officer Lauren Henley, which you can read more about via this link.

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