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Last minute priority pleas pre-Budget

Final pleas to make aged care a priority are being made by a number of the nation’s aged care peak bodies ahead of next week’s 2018-19 Budget announcement.

"Government [need] to make 2018-19 a year of action in aged care" (Source: Shutterstock)

The calls, coming from Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) and National Seniors, focus on the need for Budget funding to address the nation’s ongoing home care package shortage, gaps in the home care system as well as the future financial and workforce sustainability of the industry.

LASA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sean Rooney led the chorus of advocacy that aged care requires urgent funding support in the 2018-19 Federal Budget support for the Budget to address aged care, saying it would ensure quality services are available for older Australians where and when they need them.

“I’m calling on the Federal Government to prioritise the care of older Australians,” he says.

“The Government has recently announced $4.8 billion of additional revenue from higher than estimated tax receipts to the Commonwealth… this revenue provides scope to address the needs of the growing number of older Australians.”

Mr Rooney also highlights the fact that Australia is predicted to need another 83,500 beds over the next 10 years to meet the rising demand.

“Similarly we have seen the national queue for home care packages continue to grow over 100,000, with some on the waiting list forced into residential care sooner than they would prefer due to unavailability of packages, which is costing government even more,” he says.

“Unless there is urgent action in the 2018-19 Budget that addresses these issues, there will be significant impacts for older Australians, aged services providers and the Government.

“Government [need] to make 2018-19 a year of action in aged care.”

National Seniors focused on the home care package issues, with Chief Advocate Ian Henschke saying that thousands of older Australians are experiencing “waiting time distress” because of the huge shortage of government home care packages.

Mr Henschke highlighted that more than 104,600 consumers are on the home care waiting list, with 78.7 percent waiting for higher level three and four packages, and that National Seniors has urged the Federal Government to increase aged care funding in next week’s budget and double the number of level three and four home care packages.

“We know Minister for Ageing Ken Wyatt has been working hard to improve the lives of older Australians, most of whom want to stay in their own homes rather than go into residential aged care,” Mr Henschke says.

“Our research has shown that the availability of home care packages is the biggest concern older people have when in comes to aged care.

“This reflects the waiting time distress experienced by those in the queue and the ongoing strong demand from older people who want to remain living in the community and avoid early entry into residential aged care.

“Currently, older people are being denied the home care they need to remain living independently and this has significant Budget implications.

“It costs the Government on average three times more per consumer to provide residential care rather than home care, so there’s a lot of good reasons to increase the amount of funding available for home care support for our older citizens.”

Like LASA, ACSA has also urged the Federal Government to use next Tuesday’s 2018-19 Budget to commit to the future of quality aged care with sustainable services for older Australians.

“This Budget needs to recognise the importance of aged care and the vital service it provides to older Australians not just now, but also as the population ages into the future,” ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow explains.

“The financial situation of many not-for-profit providers is critical right now and we need a substantive commitment by the Government in this Budget to address funding pressures on the sector and ensure the continuity of care for older Australians relying on aged care services.”

Ms Sparrow says it is incumbent on Government to ensure the Budget address the significant, and growing, number of Australians still waiting on the national home care queue.

“We want the care of those older Australians prioritised this budget,” she says.

“It is not acceptable to those waiting for home care, and their families, that a prolonged wait be allowed to continue indefinitely.

“We are an ageing population with huge and rising demand for home care services, in particular, and this Budget, and the Government, needs to recognise the strain that demand is placing on older Australians, their families, and the providers responsible for their care.

“This is an issue that drives how we as a nation expect to support our older Australians to age comfortably, whether now or in coming decades, with access to quality care, be that at home or in residential care.”

The 2018-19 Federal Budget will be announced on Tuesday, 8 May 2018.

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