An additional 80,000 home care packages and new funding and care standards for residential aged care facilities are part of a $17.7 billion package unveiled in last night's 2021-22 Australian Budget.
In the wake of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the new funding would be geared to “significantly improve the system”.
Here’s Downsizing.com.au’s wrap up of the announcements, along with some thoughts from industry stakeholders about what they could mean for families with loved ones requiring care.
New home care packages
Part of the plan to improve care delivery involves funding for another 80,000 home care packages over the next two years.
Many of these will be the higher level three and four packages, Mr. Frydenberg said.
This will go some way towards providing services for the 103,000 Australians the Royal Commission found that, as of June 2020, were still waiting for a package. It brings the total number of available packages to 275,000.
Increased funding for residents in aged care homes
Mr Frydenberg announced an extra $10 per resident per day will be paid to residential aged care facilities from July 1.
This is aimed to redress the Royal Commission’s finding that aged care funding is insufficient, which affects both access to care and quality of care delivery.
While families with loved ones residing in care homes are likely to welcome any additional funding going towards their care, an ABC News report yesterday noted that by the end of the forward estimates, aged care spending will still be $7 billion less than the amount a recent Grattan Institute report calculated the sector would need as a starting point.
In an ABC interview last night, Mr Frydenberg also said measures would be put in place to help ensure the additional funding goes towards resident care rather than provider profits.
These include a new regulator who’ll work closely with the sector, hundreds of extra audits each year, and new powers for regulators.
Minimum care times established
Mr Frydenberg also said the government will increase the amount of time nurses and carers are required to spend with residents.
From 2023, staff will need to spend at least 200 minutes per day with every resident, including at least 40 minutes with a registered nurse. Additionally, at least one registered nurse will need to be on shift at every facility for a minimum of 16 hours per day from July next year.
Also announced were 33,000 new training places for personal care workers and more funding for aged care infrastructure in regional and remote areas.
Aged care workforce incentives
Retention bonuses aimed at keeping nurses in the aged care workforce were also announced. Registered nurses, for example, will be paid an additional $3,700 per year if they stay with the same aged care provider for 12 months.
Mixed response to budget announcements
Stakeholders in the aged care sector have had varied responses to the Treasurer’s announcements.
The Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia welcomed the package.
COTA’s Chief Executive, Ian Yates, called it “a serious and meaningful response to the ‘neglect’ identified by the Aged Care Royal Commission and the need to transform the industry”.
COTA said the 80,000 new home care packages “should easily remove any waiting list”, calling on the government to guarantee no older Australian will wait longer than 30 days from when they register, to when they start receiving services, by 1 July 2022.
It also welcomed the initial investment of $7.1 billion into daily care of Australians living in residential aged care, along with increased transparency around staffing and minimum staff times per resident.
COTA however said “each of these measures needs to be stronger than announced”, arguing for mandatory full transparency about staffing numbers and mix, finances, quality measures and resident and family feedback.
The Combined Pensioners & Superannuants Association welcomed the almost $18 billion in new, recurrent funding, but said “it is clear that this new funding barely touches the sides.”
It also said the funding promised for 80,000 new home care packages falls $1.9 billion dollars short of the $7.9 billion required to get rid of the waiting list. Plus, it “funds only three of the four forward estimates years”.
Catholic Health Australia called the package “a landmark moment for older Australians.”
It said this Budget, and the government’s response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, finally addressed many of the challenges facing aged care. CHA’s CEO Pat Garcia said the aged care sector was ready to work with the government to immediately implement reforms.
Comment from our CEO
Downsizing.com.au CEO Amanda Graham also welcomed the additional funding, adding that much more needed to be done to restore public confidence in the aged care sector.
“In particular, the additional home care places are desperately needed to support older people living independently for as long as possible," Ms Graham said.
"Home care is a preferred option for consumers, and it is a more cost effective way for government to deliver services.
"The continued expansion of home care to meet growing demand from an ageing population will be critical in the years ahead."
Find out more:
- Healthy living and care in retirement communities: your ultimate guide
- Six of the latest technology solutions to help your elderly parent stay at home
- One parent needs care and the other doesn't? How they can continue to live together
- 2021-22 Australian Budget: Downsizer superannuation and home equity release schemes expanded
- Australian Government budget brochure
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