Aged care providers, consumers and unions have told the re-elected Coalition Government they are united on the further reforms needed to aged care and initial steps must be contained in the next budget.
The stakeholders also called on the Coalition to release the modelling underpinning thecontroversial budget changes to the Aged Care Funding Instrument and work with providers to mitigate the impacts.
While residential providers acknowledged the proposal to remove the distinction between residential and community aged care was a “scary one”, they said it was nonetheless achievable if handled properly.
The group representatives told the National Press Club on Wednesday that neither major party had committed to the roadmap during the election.
With the number of aged care places remaining capped, Productivity Commission figures earlier this year showed waiting times for residential and home care “blew out” by 30 per cent between 2011 and 2014-15, said Paul Sadler, president of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA).
“Our aged care system is a lottery… it’s unfathomable that the system makes our most vulnerable wait an average of 68 days,” he said.
Time to go further on reforms
The political parties needed to commit to the roadmap for reform over the next five years to give older people choice and control over who provided their care, where and when they received it, Mr Sadler said.
“This will require integration of residential care, home care and home support into single equitable funding structure based on funding following the consumer,” he said.
Ian Yates, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia chief executive said the Living Longer Living Better reforms were a “half-way house on the reform journey recommended by the Productivity Commission” in 2011.
These measures would still leave stakeholders short of resolving many of the issues consumers faced, he said.
Consumers wanted ease of information and guidance, prompt and independent assessment; immediate provision of care resources on a fair basis, and the ability to choose where those resources were used and with which providers, Mr Yates said.
“That’s the system the government’s own sector committee has proposed in the roadmap,” he added.
Mr Sadler said the proposal to adopt a single aged care system, with the distinction between residential and community care removed, was the biggest shift to make.
“That’s a scary one for aged care providers who have invested in the capital of building residential aged care. It’s not one where our backers in the banks and the financing sector are feeling entirely comfortable at this point. So there’s quite a lot of work to do… in structured fashion, but it can be achieved,” he said.
Lee Thomas, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing & Midwifery Federation, said the government had to immediately remove the cap on the number of home care packages.
Within two years the Coalition Government should legislate for mandated minimums around staff numbers, educational attainment and skill levels in residential aged care, she said.
ACFI: release modelling
The National Aged Care Alliance’s position on the changes to the ACFI was that government should open up its modelling and work with the sector so there was an understanding of the estimates, said Mr Yates.
Mr Sadler said that if the government would not reverse its decision then it had to work with providers to be clear about how the effect of the cuts should be moderated.
Adopting the measures in the roadmap would help lead to sustainable aged care financing arrangements, where the market determines the price, those who can contribute do, and the government acts as the safety net and contributes when there is insufficient market response, he said.
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