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Elusive Colbeck emerges to chat with COTA Australia’s Ian Yates during webinar

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Largely inconspicuous during the 2022 election campaign, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck finally emerged today to speak with COTA Australia CEO Ian Yates in an online webinar.

The minister mostly spoke about the progress made by the Morrison Government after the handing down of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in July 2021, a process of reform he says he is keen to continue “after the election”.

“It’s one of the most important things I’ve done in my working career and I’m really looking forward to continuing to maintain the momentum and developing a really world class aged care system for Australians.”  

Colbeck did not acknowledge the possibility of his party losing the election, nor of him having to hand the baton to shadow minister for aged care services, Clare O’Neil.

It’s one of the most important things I’ve done in my working career and I’m really looking forward to continuing to maintain the momentum and developing a really world class aged care system for Australians.

Minister for Aged Care and Older Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck

Aged Care News has summarised some of they key talking points of the 45 minute webinar, with the full talk available to view via this link.

The new AN-ACC funding model

Colbeck expressed his pride at overseeing the implementation of the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model, which was the brainchild of researchers from the Australian Health Services Research Institute at the University of Wollongong, who had been developing the model since 2017.

“The new model is a game-changer,” Colbeck said.

“[It] is case-mix based and focused on the delivery of care based on their care requirements…

“It picks up all of the costs of delivery of care … providing the ability to add elements for homelessness, Indigenous support, rural and regionality, which the previous system did in some ways, but not as efficiently as this one.”

Furthermore, he noted that the payment class system, which maintains the initial level of funding awarded to residents even if their conditions improves, is a “fairer” structure.

The new [AN-ACC funding] model is a game-changer… It picks up all of the costs of delivery of care … providing the ability to add elements for homelessness, Indigenous support, rural and regionality, which the previous system did in some ways, but not as efficiently as this one.

Senator Colbeck

“It takes out some of the incentives that exist in the system that don’t facilitate re-enablement.”

As Aged Care News has reported, allied health professionals have cited concerns with the new model for providing insufficient protections for services such as physiotherapy in residential aged care.

“We want people to be improving in their wellness when they enter aged care and there were some disincentives in the ACFI model,” Colbeck maintained.

Home care a top-priority

Reforming the home care system is, according to Colbeck, one of the Morrison Government’s top priorities, with demand growing consistently by six per cent per annum.

He did speak to the details of the upcoming Support at Home program, which will see all home care services delivered under one streamlined system by July 2023.

When I came to the portfolio, the waiting list was something like 120,000 and the waiting time were too long, but now we’re in a situation where those waiting lists are rapidly decreasing, we’re rolling packages out at a rate of 770 per week.

Senator Colbeck

However, Colbeck emphasised cuts to waiting times as a key achievement of his time in the portfolio.  

“When I came to the portfolio, the waiting list was something like 120,000 and the waiting time were too long, but now we’re in a situation where those waiting lists are rapidly decreasing, we’re rolling packages out at a rate of 770 per week.”

He said that his aim is to reduce waiting times to a maximum of 30 days, with the longest waiting times currently at seven months.  

“It’s not as if [those put on the waiting list] are left without support at all…

“I think 99 per cent of people who don’t get immediate high care will still be given support via a lower payment class, and, of course, they still have access to our world-class healthcare system,” Colbeck added.

Workforce issues

On the topic of pay-rises for aged care workers, Colbeck admitted that low-pay is a key contributor to the issues, but maintained the present Government would not aim to influence the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

“We don’t want people’s remuneration to be an inhibitor to working in aged care … [but] it’s really important that Fair Work carries out their processes independently.”

He added that the incoming AN-ACC model will provide an ongoing opportunity to reassess workers’ value.

I think we’re doing better than the opposition … as we have built in the assessment of cost of care into the new funding model. It’s different to the past, which was based on an indexing system.

Senator Colbeck

“This is the game-changer, where we go beyond promising to fund just this case: this new system continually reassesses cost of delivery.

“So, I think we’re doing better than the opposition … as we have built in the assessment of cost of care into the new funding model.

“It’s different to the past, which was based on an indexing system.”

Yates pointed out that providing extra funding to home care packages is worthless unless there is also adequate staff to deliver services.

“I think we’re seeing now that rolling out the packages progressively as we build up the workforce was really important,” Colbeck responded.

Colbeck noted that he supports both training more domestic workers, as well as opening the borders to the international workforce.

“Of course, training people here in Australia is important, and there are over 48,000 packages available through the workforce plan we released … but we need to also look at what our options are for carers from other jurisdictions.

“We are a very successful country in relation to immigration; those people make an extraordinarily important contribution to our communities and our society so opening up opportunities for them and supporting the sector, in recruiting, is going to be very important.

We are a very successful country in relation to immigration; those people make an extraordinarily important contribution to our communities and our society so opening up opportunities for them and supporting the sector, in recruiting, is going to be very important.

Senator Colbeck

“And we will be in a position — very quickly — after the election, to facilitate some recruitment from overseas.”

Transparency key pillar of new system

“It’s particularly important for consumer and public confidence in the sector,” Colbeck said of the need for increased transparency into provider spending, as well as quality of care.  

He referred to the new food budget reporting requirements as a promising first step in overhauling this aspect of the sector.

“The royal commission suggested that we should inject an additional $10 per day relating to food, and so we’ve done that, and at the same time we’ve required reporting and have publicly reported that.”

A star rating system, which Colbeck noted will be operational by the end of 2022, will collate data that can be publicly available, and will also be used to deliver monthly care reports to residents and their families.

“We now have five quality standards that will be reported to us and expanded as part of the reforms process. That will include things like care minutes, nursing time, and allied health.”

Furthermore, Colbeck said his party will move to digitise reporting processes, which he claimed as done manually by 40 per cent of providers.

“I think in three years’ time, all providers should be doing their reporting digitally.”

“The use of IT can be a huge enabler of more efficient delivery of care and more efficient reporting of that…

“Quite frankly I think it’s the one thing that will allow the reform process to really work.”

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I reckon hell will freeze over before this stack of dead wood does anything. Other than keeping funnelling $Tax into the pockets of the for profit mob.

  2. Surely Colbeck can’t think he will be in government after the election,he can’t possibly hold his spot after the atrocious failings he has driven. 70% of facilities are losing money and on the brink of closing and he thinks he is doing okay!

    To Denis… you have no idea what your talking about, the funding for all nursing homes is the same except that private homes have higher operational costs that give charity homes a financial advantage. Government homes get more again than all other facilities . Do some reading before commenting.

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