Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) highlights a list of funding priorities in their pre-Budget submission, including solutions and research required to help deliver much-needed support and reform across the aged care sector.
LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney says public spending on aged care in Australia is relatively low by international standards and has not kept up with rising wages and the growing needs and expectations of older Australians.
“More than 40 percent 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.”
The funding priorities listed in LASA’s pre-Budget submission include;
$670 million per year to offset recent reductions in indexation so 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
An initial investment of at least $30 million per year in workforce training and development to upskill staff including in areas, such as dementia care, palliative care and medication management.
“Older Australians need a better aged care system, and older Australians deserve nothing less,” Mr Rooney says.
On the final day of the second hearings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Commissioners heard an additional $2-2.5 billion would be needed each year to reduce the waiting times of home care packages to a maximum of three months.
Chief Executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Ian Yates agrees the waiting time for older Australians is unfair and says the Government should provide at least $1.25 billion per year extra in this Budget to completely remove waiting lists within two years, or at most three.
He says this is not a new situation for Australia’s ageing community.
“It has just become more starkly obvious since mid-2017 with the creation of a single national queue; but people have been dying while waiting for high level packages for years.
“It’s a nightmare that for many never comes to a positive end.
“Older Australians needing aged care do not have time to wait for “more favourable” Budget conditions – they are at real and substantial risk now; having been assessed by Government assessors as needing high levels of care.
“Tax cuts don’t help them – aged care support in their home will allow them dignity, respect and support in their latter stages of life.”
Mr Yates says urgent action is needed now.
“We don’t need to wait for the Royal Commission’s report – the evidence to the Commission, and its findings about that, are clear.”
The Federal Budget is being released tonight.
You can read LASA’s full Budget submission here.