It was announced that the Australian Government would release $34 million in funding grants to support innovation in dementia care and other aged care services as well as an additional $25.7 million to be received by the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) over the next three years, along with the announcement of changes to My Aged Care.
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt says the grants would help the aged care system meet the challenges ahead.
“The Turnbull Government is committed to helping older Australians, particularly those who are vulnerable,” Minister Wyatt says.
“We know Australia’s population is ageing, and we know the aged care system must adapt to meet the community’s changing needs.”
As part of the $34 million released in funding grants to support dementia and aged care services, 42 projects will receive grants right through until 30 June 2019 with the focus on six priority areas with those areas being:
- Support for existing and emerging challenges in dementia: An online simulated training program for residential aged care providers and a trial of innovative ‘virtual’ support for carers of people with dementia in rural communities.
- Better support for services targeting people from diverse backgrounds: Web-based tools to help people in rural or remote areas to enhance the care of older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living with dementia; several short films in Hindi, Mandarin and Arabic on the early signs of dementia; development of multilingual (25 languages) community conversations about aged care, for broadcast through community radio.
- Developments that support innovation in aged care: Research trialling a community based approach to supporting older people with mild to moderate dementia; a national education and awareness-raising program to enhance consumer empowerment and choice regarding care and prescription psychotropics for dementia.
- Support for activities that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Exploring the use of remote community art centres to link older Aboriginal people to community aged care services; support for Aboriginal community members in Circular Head (Tasmania) to undertake professional ‘within community’ training of caring for people with dementia.
- Capital support for activities that focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: A culturally appropriate space to work with Aboriginal clients and their carers; refurbishment of a kitchen for the provision of ‘Meals on Wheels’.
- Seed funding for adaptive technology projects so consumers can stay in their own home: Trial of virtual reality driving simulator to support older people in testing their driving skills to help inform decisions on relinquishing licences; development of apps and use of assistive technologies to support people with dementia; development of smart home devices and platforms to enable and support people to live safely in their homes for longer; development of a Virtual Seniors Centre to connect isolated seniors.
Minister Wyatt says that the grants spread across the 42 programs will help ensure the Australian aged care system is able to deliver high-quality and more innovative services, now and into the future.
“The projects to be funded are cutting-edge and will strengthen the capacity of the aged care sector to respond to consumer-directed care and the challenges of dementia,” Minister Wyatt says.
The $25.7 million in funding to be received by OPAN will run over the next three years and will supply wide-ranging advocacy services through its network of nine service delivery organisations across the nation.
The funding announcement follows the development of the draft National Aged Care Advocacy Framework, which will support OPAN to deliver high-quality, consistent and streamlined advocacy through the redesigned National Aged Care Advocacy Program (NACAP).
“Moving to a single provider model will allow NACAP the to build on its experience and expand its skills base,” Minister Wyatt says.
“Through its extensive national presence, OPAN will ensure strong advocacy services continue.
“With consumers now more involved in making decisions, I understand the important role strong advocacy can play, especially when people may find it difficult to express themselves.”
Chief Executive of COTA Ian Yates has commended the Minister on demonstrating the government's commitment to improving the lives of older Australians and looks forward to seeing the national advocacy program in action.
"We are operating in a rapidly changing aged care environment which means now, more than ever, information and support to older Australians is crucial to enable them to exercise their rights and get the best out of the aged care system," Mr Yates says.
"This is now a genuinely national program that should in the near future see better outcomes for aged care consumers everywhere across Australia."
As far as the changes to My Aged Care go, Minister Wyatt says one of the most important is the clarification on who can speak on a consumer’s behalf and under what circumstances.
“If a person is capable of consenting to someone speaking and acting on their behalf to My Aged Care, he or she now has greater flexibility in appointing a regular representative, and who that person can be,” Minister Wyatt says.
“In those cases where a person may not be capable of providing such consent, the consumer will need to have an authorised representative appointed for them.
“The legal documents needed to establish an authorised representative, and the nature of decisions made on My Aged Care, have now been streamlined to make them consistent with State and Territory legislation.”
Specific consumers with diverse needs who cannot engage with My Aged Care over the phone, and who do not have a representative, can now be referred by a third party directly for an assessment.
“Health professionals will also benefit as they will be able to follow up on their patient’s progress when they call the My Aged Care contact centre,” Minister Wyatt says.
“This will enable them to provide continuity of care for their patients. There will be greater visibility on the progress of referrals, as health professional’s work together with My Aged Care assessors in support of older people.
“These changes will ensure that vulnerable consumers don’t fall through the cracks, and are able to receive the assessments and aged care services they need.
“Simplifying the system will better support people through their My Aged Care journey.”
Pat Sparrow, CEO Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), says they have been calling for improvements to My Aged Care for sometime and that it is encouraging to see changes being made to improve the system for both consumer and provider.
"Streamlining consent arrangements for individuals and ensuring people from diverse backgrounds can be referred by a third party for assessment are sensible and much needed," Ms Sparrow says.
"There is still work to be done to ensure the system is as effective as it can be, and ACSA is willing to assist Government where possible to achieve this."