Australia’s aged care industry has flagged its ongoing need for future structural funding as it welcomed the $1.6 billion home care boost from yesterday’s Commonwealth Budget.
The Australian Government last night announced it would delay revealing funding for the overhaul of the aged care system until the royal commission reported next year but allocated another 23,000 packages for home-based services.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told parliament aged care was “one of the greatest challenges we face in delivering essential services to Australians” and reinforced the cash already allocated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During this crisis an additional $1.6 billion has already been provided to support the needs of Australians in aged care,” he said.
“The Government will provide a comprehensive response to the final recommendations following receipt of that [royal commission] report. This will involve significant additional investment.
“We know there is still more to be done.”
Mr Frydenberg also announced more funding for skills training and dementia upskilling, in line with the job wage subsidies and tax cuts that were the centrepiece of the Budget.
The Aged Care Workforce Council will receive $10.3 million to guide the transformation of the sector staff under the A Matter of Care report.
Industry group Leading Age Services Australia said they hoped the funding would be ongoing once structural changes were in place.
Chief executive officer Sean Rooney said industry wanted to transform into a world-leading aged care system.
“Hopefully, this Budget is just a start, a down payment on a better age care system,” he said.
“The Royal Commission has heard that the policy, regulation and resourcing that underpins Australia’s aged care system has not kept pace with the needs of older Australians or the expectations of the wider community.
“Evidence to the Royal Commission has recently highlighted deep structural problems with funding for aged care.
“While this Budget does not address all of these issues, it does lay a platform for the future.”
He said the home care packages were a necessary boost to accommodate the vast majority of people, who wanted to stay in their own homes.
PwC Australia’s National Health Leader Sarah Butler said the $1.6bn in funding was a good first step but looked forward to the post-royal commission investment.
“We need significant improvements to aged care workforce capacity and skills, greater transparency and the right policy settings to encourage investment in the sector,” she said.
“Aged care spending must support more at-home care and home-like residential care and the continued integration of virtual health, all of which play a role in reform.”
The Aged Care Guild acting chief executive officer Nicholas Brown said the Budget added little for future reform.
“This Budget is particularly important to senior Australians and the aged care industry in laying the foundations for the sector’s path to recovery, and the reform it desperately needs,” said Mr Brown.
“First and foremost, aged care needs to be about supporting senior Australians. However, it can and should be an important part of rebuilding Australia’s economy, particularly when it comes to the workforce and employing and retaining much-needed staff.”
He noted the requirement for bridging funding for the sector once the COVID-19 money ran out early next year, but before the next budget in May.
Australia’s national nursing union, the ANMF said the Budget offered little reward to the care workers “producing extraordinary efforts to protect and defend Australians’ health during the pandemic, especially in aged care”.
“The Government is deferring action in aged care yet again, by waiting for the release of the Royal Commission’s final report in February.
“It’s disappointing that there’s no action on job security and no action of improving wages and conditions for aged care workers.”
The Budget provided more than half a billion in wage subsidies, tax cuts and cash payments including $250 pensioner bonuses.
The $74 bn Job Maker scheme will allow businesses to hire young people with a benefit of up to $200 on their weekly wages.
National Chairman of the Pitcher Partners National Association John Brazzale said the Budget measures would benefit business confidence and encourage spending overall.
“For middle-market businesses, the initiatives are designed to reward those with the money able to invest in new equipment and new opportunities,” Mr Brazzale said.