Major parties criticised over lack of action on aged care

Matt Woodley

13/05/2019 3:02:50 PM

Labor’s policy has drawn cautious praise but is said to lack detail, while the Coalition has yet to reveal its plan.

Aged care policy in Australia.
Aged care advocates are critical of both major parties' policies ahead of the Federal election.

With vivid horror stories continuing to emerge from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, pressure has been building on both sides of politics to provide solutions.
According to the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), Australia will need almost 100,000 new aged care workers over the next four years to meet growing demand, while nearly 130,000 older Australians are waiting for a home care package.
Parts of the Opposition’s aged care policy, revealed over the weekend, sought to remedy these problems. In particular, it pledged to create up to 20,000 training places for aged care workers, increase staffing at residential aged care facilities (RACFs), and provide more incentives for GPs to perform home visits and provide services in RACFs.
Labor also pledged to improve access to home care packages, fund 24–7 on-site registered nurses at RACFs, and publish the skill mix of the workforce employed at every RACF.
Dementia Australia, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) and the aged care sector’s peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) generally welcomed the announcements.
However, LASA chief executive Sean Rooney remains concerned about what he described as a financial crisis facing residential aged care providers, adding it is not necessary to wait until the royal commission’s final report to begin improving the system.
‘The next government must address as a matter of urgency the funding emergency in residential aged care, which sees an estimated 43% of facilities currently operating at a loss,’ he said.
‘This situation impacts the ability of residential care providers to consistently meet the changing needs and expectations of older Australians.
‘LASA is calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to now announce the Coalition’s plans for the sector.’
To date, the Coalition has promised $34 million to establish an Aged Care Workforce Research Centre, while an additional $10 million has been earmarked for a Seniors Connected Program to combat loneliness. It has also revealed a target of 475,000 additional aged care workers by 2025.
‘Older Australians have built our country and they deserve our respect and support for the choices they want to make,’ Prime Minister Scott Morrison said earlier this month.
‘This funding will deliver better support and care for older Australians, while ensuring we build the workforce to meet the demands of an ageing population.
‘As a nation we must continue to support our older Australians and I remain absolutely committed to doing more.’
But despite the commitments, some groups are critical that not enough has been done.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) has condemned the lack of ‘substantive action’, with chief executive Patricia Sparrow forecasting ‘significant challenges’ regarding the detail and implementation of the announcements.
‘We’re disappointed immediate action has been put on the back burner using the royal commission as an excuse,’ CEO Patricia Sparrow said.
‘The incoming government, whomever it may be, needs to relieve the significant pressures on services for older Australians right now.
‘Both parties agreed that the crisis facing aged care warranted a royal commission but have largely ignored the big issues older Australians face in the election campaign.’
The Federal Election is set for Saturday 18 May.

Aged care Aged care royal commission Election Federal


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