The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have called it “the first significant announcement on aged care in the federal election campaign”.
While aged care industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), which has heavily been campaigning for more policy announcements, has “cautiously” welcomed the Labor promises.
LASA Chief Executive Officer, Sean Rooney, says, “With a forecast $154 billion in savings over the next decade, we would have preferred fully costed responses to the solutions we have put forward to make the aged care system better.
“However, we welcome Bill Shorten’s commitment today that he will take decisive action if elected next Saturday.
“Australia needs an aged care system that ensures older Australians can access the care they need, when and where they need it, and that this care is adequately funded to reflect the actual costs of delivering high-quality care and services.”
Labor has promised, if elected, to ensure there is an registered nurse [RN] present on-site at residential aged care facilities, 24 hours a day; requiring providers to publish the skill mix of their employed aged care workforce at every nursing home and an appropriate mixture of skilled, properly trained staff is on duty at all times;
The party will also implement the Matter of Care workforce strategy, identified by the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce to be the best model for the aged care sector, which addresses understaffing; increasing numbers and access to home care packages; increase staffing levels and skills; and providing GPs incentives to work in aged care.
In addition, Labor promises an increase of training for aged care staff to improve dementia understanding and care, plus scholarships for nurses and carers to undertake specialist dementia care training; and provide TAFE place for 20,000 aged care students.
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary, Annie Butler, says, “This is a positive step in the right direction, particularly because it recognises the need to take action now, rather than waiting for recommendations from the Royal Commission.
“There is still a lot of work to do. To ensure safe, quality care in aged care, we need mandated ratios to guarantee safe staffing levels and full transparency to guarantee taxpayers’ money is directly tied to care.”
Before this announcement from Labor, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia yesterday further released concerns aimed at major parties not prioritising aged care in this upcoming election.
Chief Executive of COTA Australia, Ian Yates, says, “The election period so far has “been bitterly disappointing for the 7 million older Australians and their families, with the major parties swiping at each other about intergenerational bias rather than seeking to unite the electorate around the many real needs that are not being met.
“In particular, older Australians need to be very afraid of developing a need for aged care at home over the next term of government as this far into campaign both parties have turned their backs on the 125,000 strong home care queue.”
The latest research report from COTA shows older Australians are paying huge attention to the election campaign and policies announced by both parties, which will sway their vote on polling day.
Top election issues from older Australians in the survey include 66 percent wanting good quality aged care (up from 57 percent last election), access to quality primary health services at 66 percent (down from 77 percent) and access to adequate age pensions at 61 percent.
Mr Yates says “COTA acknowledges and welcomes Labor’s pensioner dental scheme, which will make a huge difference to hundreds of thousands of older Australians and puts dental into Medicare for the first time; and we also welcome action on cancer care.
“However, we believe both major parties have been, on the whole, missing in action this election on the issues that matter most to the welfare of older Australians.”
Anglicare Australia also released an open letter to both major parties, seeking commitment for quality, affordable aged care.
Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers says, “The quality of the care we provide is a reflection of how we value older people. That’s why we sent these open letters to the Government and Opposition earlier in the campaign.
“We are pleased that the Opposition has now responded with a statement on aged care. After months of advocacy from the aged care sector, we are seeing Labor acknowledge the issues that the sector is facing – but we still need a commitment to take concrete actions and commit funding.
“And the Government has not made any announcements on aged care, less than one week before election day.”
The Australian industry peak bodies and other related organisations hope there will be a costings announcement to back up the promises from Labor.