Federal Budget is a chance to better support older Australians

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), says next week’s Federal Budget is an opportunity to better meet the changing needs of older Australians.

 

In its pre-Budget submission, LASA detailed a list of funding priorities, along with a range of measures to free up funding for age services without any cost to the Budget, alongside research required to drive future reform in the sector.

 

LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney said public spending on aged care in Australia is relatively low by international standards and has not kept pace with rising wages and the growing needs and expectations of older Australians.

 

“More than 40 per cent of residential aged care facilities are operating in deficit and a leading industry analyst forecasts that average earnings will turn negative by the end of 2019.

 

“The $320 million funding boost for residential care announced by the Government in February will help for the next three months, but the fact that this funding expires in June means that there is no real relief from funding pressures.

 

“The sector also faces the unacceptable situation of over 120,000 older Australians waiting, sometimes 12 months or more, for the home care services they have been assessed as needing.

 

“The February announcement of funding for additional home care packages, building on a similar announcement in December, should help stabilise or even start reducing the home care queue, but a much larger investment is needed to bring waiting times down to acceptable levels for people who are currently in need of assistance.”

 

LASA is calling on the Federal Government to better support the sector through funding priorities including:

  • $670 million per year to offset recent reductions in indexation so that residential care facilities can deliver care while remaining financially sustainable
  • Around $100 million per year in additional targeted relief for facilities in remote and outer regional areas where financial viability is under particular threat
  • Around $100 million per year to urgently boost funding to support older Australians experiencing the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia
  • Around $500 million per year to meet the needs of the growing numbers of older Australians on the Home Care national queue (including legislated maximum waiting times)
  • Around $60 million to boost indexation of home care subsidies to match cost increases and ensure that levels of care are maintained and enhanced, whilst regulatory assessment of quality is assured
  • At least $30 million per year as an initial investment in workforce training and development to up-skill staff including in areas such as dementia care, palliative care and medication management (this is roughly enough for a staff member in each aged care service to attend a single day training course).

 

Mr Rooney said there are also several ways that the Government could free-up additional funding for aged care without any cost to the Budget, including:

  • Implement the 2017 Aged Care Legislated Review recommendations to allow for higher consumer contributions from those who can afford to pay
  • Lower the interest rate that must be paid by residential care providers on lump sum accommodation payments while awaiting a valid request to return the money to match the rate that consumers would have received if it were held as a retail deposit
  • Fast track the home care queue for low means individuals to address the fact that they cannot pay for services privately while they wait
  • Advertise the revised Pension Loans Scheme to everyone on the home care queue and introduce a Home Care Loans Scheme with a heavily discounted interest rate
  • Outline a plan for the integration of the Commonwealth Home Support Program and Home Care Packages to provide certainty for operators and their clients.

 

LASA is also urging the Government to invest in building a foundation to support a shift from an ‘aged care’ sector to an ‘ageing well’ system by funding:

  • Research to develop more robust outcome-based measures of life satisfaction and clinical quality that are robust and cost effective enough to act as quality measures across the system and at an individual service level in both home care and residential care
  • Research building on the Resource Utilisation and Classification Study to identify the resources required, including funding and staffing models, to deliver care that achieves agreed benchmarks against these indicators
  • Research on the interface between aged care and the health care system to identify opportunities to improve efficiency and effectiveness.

 

With the budget expected to set the scene for the federal election, LASA is calling on all political parties and candidates to recognise that making our aged care system better is a national priority.

 

LASA’s full Budget submission can be found at - https://lasa.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/LASA-2019-20-Budget-Submission.pdf.

 

28 March 2019.