BaptistCare NSW & ACT is just one of many aged care providers hoping the federal election will be a catalyst for change to safeguard affordable and quality aged care for future generations, and fresh research shows the sector remains top of mind for those about to vote from outside of the sector, too.
A new polling of voters, commissioned by BaptistCare and undertaken by YouGov, shows aged care policy is an ‘important issue’ for 83 per cent of Australian voters in deciding how they will cast their ballot on May 21.
Three in ten (29 per cent) say aged care policy will be a ‘very important issue’ in their decision, with older voters more likely to say it will be very important (35 per cent of 35- to 49-year-olds and 32 per cent of those over 50 years of age, compared to 20 per cent of 18- to 34-year-olds).
Almost all Australian voters polled (96 per cent) believe that there are important actions the new government should take with respect to the aged care sector following the election.
“You don’t have to be an aged care worker to know that we have never worked harder than we have in the last two years,” BaptistCare CEO Charles Moore says.
“The pandemic has highlighted and accelerated systemic issues in aged care, which have been ignored by successive governments.
“Our sector is underfunded and it’s impacting both aged care workers and the most vulnerable in our society, and voters are seeing this too.
“Growing public interest in these issues means it is not the time for empty promises.”
Moore says Australian voters want real action on aged care after two decades of independent reviews.
“The recommendations of the royal commission have not yet been implemented and every day without action is another day that Australians lose confidence in their ability to access timely, affordable, and quality care,” he says.
The YouGov polling found that more than four in ten (45 per cent of) Australians have become less confident in the aged care sector in the past year, with half (50 per cent) of Australians living outside of the five major capital cities admitting they’ve become less confident in the aged care sector over the past 12 months compared to four in ten (42 per cent) of those living in these cities.
“The fact that 17 per cent of voters say they have become more confident in aged care must surely be testament to those dedicated workers across the sector who have continued to show up on the frontline of care in the most challenging of circumstances,” Moore says.
“The research suggests this issue of confidence is more pointed in regional areas than in capital cities – making it vital to securing the all-important regional vote.”
The top three most important actions voters think a new government should take are to increase government funding to the sector to ensure quality aged care remains sustainable (24 per cent), to increase care staff to resident ratios (21 per cent), and to increase accountability of aged care providers (20 per cent).
Moore says the number one thing any government can do to resolve issues plaguing the industry is to increase funding, and more specifically to fund any increase in aged care workers’ wages recommended by the Fair Work Commission.
“Not only is this fundamental to the long-term viability of the sector, but it’s also something we know Aussies want to see change,” he says.
“In fact, we found that in a list of sectors, Aussie voters ranked aged care workers second only to hospital workers in terms of who should be highest paid.”
“It is only through government and community understanding and support that the sector will continue to deliver the standard of care that Australians expect and deserve.
“We are ready and eager to work with the incoming government on solutions, but public education is needed around the scale of funding and solutions required.”
The Government currently funds 90 per cent of the aged care system in Australia, however YouGov research found that only 48 per cent of voters were confident to say what they thought the level of government funding the aged care sector receives was, and of those who could answer, only 16 per cent of Australian voters think the government funds 70 per cent or more of the aged care system.