IT WAS heralded as a budget for older Australians, but lobby group reaction shows that is far from the reality when it comes to aged care in the federal budget 2018-19.
The government will provide an extra 14,000 high-level home care packages over the next four years, adding to the 6000 extra places announced in December.
While welcome news, with more than 104,000 people currently on the waiting list for home care packages to meet their needs - 78 per cent of these needing higher level 3 and 4 packages - the news has been seen by some as a mere drop in the aged care bucket.
"The home care package list is starting to look like a promise on the never-never," said Combined Pensioners' and Superannuants' Association policy co-ordinator Paul Versteege.
The Benevolent Society's Kirsty Nowlan said the additional packages, spread over four years, did not meet the full shortfall of those waiting for packages.
"The budget does not help all of the 60,000 people who currently have no package at all, or the 44,000 people currently on lower level packages than they require," Dr Nowlan said.
"No one should have to wait for this critical assistance.
"Once people are assessed as being eligible and in need, they should have a package ready to go.
"This is not, as has been heralded, a 'budget for baby boomers' nor does it have older Australians as its centrepiece with a 'sweeping blueprint for aged care'."
National Seniors Australia had called for double the number of Level 3 and 4 home care packages.
"Sadly, there are still tens of thousands of people waiting for the level of home care they need and it seems that will remain the situation for some years to come unless more money is put into this vital area," said the organisation's chief advocate Ian Henschke.
"We know that if people remain in their own homes they have better health outcomes and it is more cost efficient, so it's hard to understand why more resources haven't been allocated to home care."
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates praised the government's More Choices for a Longer Life Package as taking a "proactive approach to an ageing Australia".
"The challenge now is to make sure that this is not a one-off, so we will be asking the government to commit to an ageing strategy that will tie the budget measures together, monitor their progress and recommend change and expansion based on experience, making sure the momentum ... carries on through for all Australians as they age," he said.
New care places announced
THE aged care package also included 13,500 new residential care places and 775 short-term restorative places to be made available where they are most needed, plus $60 million for capital investment.
There is also $40 million to support aged care providers in regional, rural and remote areas for urgent building and maintenance works.
More than $105 million will go towards improving access to culturally safe aged care services in remote Indigenous communities.
Other measures include:
- $50 million over two years for a Better Quality of Care program to assist residential aged care providers to transition to a new quality standards framework
- $82.5 million over four years for mental health services for people in residential aged care facilities
- $5.3 million over four years to develop technological solutions to support people living with dementia to better manage their care
- $32.8 million for palliative care in residential aged care (contingent on states matching funding)
- $61.7 million to make MyAged Care easier to use and simplify aged care application forms along with $7.4 million to trial navigators to help people choose the aged care services that suit their needs
- $22.9 million for sporting organisations to deliver new programs for older Australians
- The creation of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to ensure older Australians receive the best possible care and an extra $50 million to help providers implement the new standards.
Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said the budget had not adequately addressed the "growing complexity of residents' needs, changing consumer and community expectations and rising operating costs, which are all placing increasing financial pressure on residential care providers and the overall aged care system".
"Funding cuts by successive governments to residential aged care services, combined with rising operating costs and growing acuity/complexity of residents, means we still face a crisis of sustainability with an estimated 40 per cent of residential aged care providers recording financial losses last year," Mr Rooney said.
"Ultimately, what Australia requires is the development of a long term, sustainable funding strategy to ensure the needs of older Australians can be met."
While welcoming the $50 million quality care funding, Aged and Community Services Australia chief executive Pat Sparrow said with 41 per cent of aged care providers making a loss, rising to 56 per cent in remote and rural areas, "we need a serious examination of residential care funding to ensure its long-term sustainability".