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Peak bodies band together for aged care Rescue Package proposal

Seven aged care sector peak bodies have joined together to propose a Rescue Package costing over 1.2 billion to the Federal Government, to keep 1.3 million people in its care and receiving services while providing security and safety to 360,000 workers during the COVID-19 epidemic.

The Rescue Package proposal was prompted by what the peak bodies describe as a
The Rescue Package proposal was prompted by what the peak bodies describe as a "lack of response" to the financial situation in the sector. [Source: Shutterstock]

Many aged care providers were struggling financially before the coronavirus hit, and the peak bodies say that the current crisis has escalated the situation for nursing homes closer to breaking point.

The peak bodies and aged care representative organisations who have united together are: Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), the Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptistcare Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), and UnitingCare Australia.

The Rescue Package proposal is asking for:

  • Over $250 million for home care (182 days at $10 per day for up to 150,000 people)

  • $546 million for residential care (182 days at $15 per day for 200,000 people)

  • $500 million pool of funds for information technology measures and training to reduce social isolation and loneliness

  • A workforce fund, which depends on the number of workers who will be required to isolate

  • Securing Refundable Accommodation Deposits (RADs) and making improvements to the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) to keep providers financially viable and available

LASA’s Policy and Advocacy Manager, Tim Hicks, says the stories from overseas are horrifying with reports suggesting that aged care services have made up 15 to 30 percent of the total death toll in many countries. A cluster of COVID-19 sprung from a residential facility in the United States, infecting 101 residents.

"Protecting vulnerable older people from COVID-19 is vital to keeping Australia’s death toll down. It’s a relief to see the number of new cases within the community dropping, but just one outbreak in an aged care service has potentially devastating consequences," says Mr Hicks.

"Australian aged care services have been doing an incredible job protecting their clients, but to keep it up they need more support from the Government. It is an extraordinary situation that has led to an extraordinary response from the industry, that has been extraordinarily effective so far. However, this also comes with extraordinary costs. 

"Most of the support announced so far has been focused on responding to an outbreak. Some funding has been made available for staff retention, but too little has been done to cover the broader costs of stronger infection controls and services to address increased social isolation.

"Many services are also facing reduced revenue as people turn down community care and choose not to enter residential care. Providers are asking for a fair investment from the Government to help them continue to deliver outstanding services to the older people in their care. It is a small price to pay compared to broader sacrifices that we have already made as a community."

Mr Hicks adds despite numerous requests to the Government for this additional support, there has been no response to their rescue package, so a long-term funding resolution is needed.

In March, StewartBrown, a chartered accountancy firm, released the December 2019 Aged Care Financial Performance Survey results, which found that 56 percent of aged care homes recorded an operating loss for the December six month period and 29 percent of aged care homes recorded an [operating cash loss] for the December period.

StewartBrown has been recording the aged care industry's financial struggles for a while now, with COVID-19 putting an unprecedented strain on the sector.

The Rescue Package proposal was prompted by what the peak bodies describe as a "lack of response" to the financial situation in the sector, and have approached the Government on multiple occasions about these concerns.

For more information for older Australians around the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide's COVID-19 update page. 

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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