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COTA unhappy with absence of aged care mentions in Leader’s Debate

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia has expressed their offence at the lack of mention of aged care in the Leader’s Debate on May 8 between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Australian Labor Party leader, Bill Shorten.

Australian Labor Party Leader, Bill Shorten, and current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, went head to head in a Leader's Debate on May 8. [Source: ABC Facebook livestream].
Australian Labor Party Leader, Bill Shorten, and current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, went head to head in a Leader's Debate on May 8. [Source: ABC Facebook livestream].

COTA believes the leaders ignored more than 125,000 older Australians who desperately need aged care services and Home Care Packages.

The Leader Debate, the final debate hosted by the National Press Club in Canberra and broadcast by ABC and SKY News, had major party leaders putting forth their final cases for why they should be elected to parliament, touching on important topics.

Emitted from the debate was talk around the aged care industry in Australia by either politician.

COTA is demanding for plans to be released, by either party, to cut older Australians approval wait for high level care, which currently can take up to two years.

COTA Australia’s Chief Executive, Ian Yates, says “Last night’s failure to announce a commitment to a humane aged care packages policy is an appalling failure by both parties.”

“How can both leaders ignore the fact over a hundred thousand of our most frail older people are not getting the care the government has assessed they need? If this is not a priority for the next government, where are our values as a nation? Are older people’s lives discounted?

“This is not something that can be deferred for the next term of government, many of those in need will be dead, and hundreds of thousands more will have replaced them on the queue.”

The Royal Commission into Aged Care has highlighted problems around waiting lists and the pressure it puts on people waiting for Home Care Packages, including last year’s statistic of over 16,000 people dying while waiting for a package.

It can result in elderly people being pushed into residential aged care earlier than expected.

In the debate, Mr Shorten announced that Labor would be releasing election costings on Friday. In other reports, Labor has also suggested they will acknowledge and tackle aged care waiting lists before the election.

The Liberal party pledged new Home Care Packages earlier this year but nothing about reducing waiting lists.

Mr Yates says, “The single most important immediate action we need to deliver humane aged care in Australia is a commitment that no Australian waits more than three months for the right level of home care.”

COTA isn’t the only peak body that is campaigning for more pledges to the aged care sector, National Seniors Australia is calling for election candidates to fix aged care by tripling the number of Level 3 and 4 Home Care Packages.

Besides an increase in high level care packages, National Seniors wants staff to resident ratios made mandatory in all aged care facilities, and all aged care staff have to have certificates including dementia care training.

National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke says, “Our policies offer practical ways to improve aged care now and minimise further calamity as more older people attempt to access an already stressed system.

“While we welcome recent announcements by Labor and the Coalition of free dental care for some seniors and funding for aged care research, training and addressing loneliness, the big issue that must be addressed is the massive undersupply of level 3 and 4 Home Care Packages.

“Older Australians are dying waiting for care packages, suffering health deterioration and being forced into residential care.”

National Seniors believes tripling the available high level Home Care Packages would eliminate long waiting times. 

Industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) raised concerns last week about the lack of commitment from both major parties to the aged care sector.

“Older Australians and those that care for them deserve real vision and commitment from the next government of this country and they and their loved ones have a right to know where the parties stand on aged care before they head to the ballot box,” says LASA Chief Executive Officer, Sean Rooney.

“We cannot wait until after the Royal Commission to get on with this vital work.”

Election day is 10 days away (18 May) and aged care peak bodies are hoping for more policy changes or promises from major parties.

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