Budget 2022: Aged care challenges remain

More aged care workers needed or we're 'going backwards'

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Image: Shutterstock

Image: Shutterstock

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The federal government is in danger of "going backwards" unless it urgently addresses home care needs.

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The federal government is in danger of "going backwards" unless it urgently addresses home care needs.

National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said his organisation was "disheartened" by the lack of further investment in home care.

"While the government has significantly cut the waitlist over the past three years, it's in danger of going backwards if there are not enough workers to meet demand," he said.

"An additional $48.5 million for 15,000 low-fee and free training places will not be effective unless it is targeted at the right people and is accompanied with a wage increase."

The budget provides for 40,000 new home care packages and an extra 15,000 aged care training places.

"Making an extra 15,000 aged care training places available on top of the almost 34,000 in last year's budget is a drop in the ocean," said Committee for Economic Development of Australia chief economist Jarrod Ball.

"Prior to the pandemic, Australia needed 17,000 new aged care workers each year to meet the basic standards of care. Post-pandemic, workforce attrition has sped up, making the task even harder.

"Now every lever must be pulled to meet this shortage, including increased funding for wages and a new essential worker visa."

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association policy manager Paul Versteege was disappointed no provision was made in the forward estimates for a pay increase for aged care staff.

"It is clear that a significant increase is needed," he said.

"However, the government, which effectively pays the vast majority of staff wages in aged care through subsidies, has ignored the issue altogether."

Anglicare Australia described the aged care workforce as being "under pressure".

"Low pay is forcing workers to make tough decisions," said executive director Kasy Chambers. "Many workers are leaving aged care altogether.

"Without action the workforce crisis will only get worse. Older people will pay the price."

Advocacy groups acknowledged extra residential aged care funding for care, food and medication management.

Aged care budget funding at a glance:

40,000 new home care packages;

$20.1 million to transition to a new aged care funding model from October this year;

$22.1 million for a multidisciplinary outreach services trial, offering hospital-led access to specialists and other health practitioners for residential aged care residents;

$345.7 million to improve medication management for aged care residents through on-site pharmacies and community pharmacy services in government-funded facilities;

$21.6 million to support a surge workforce for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission;

$10.8 million for the Cross-Agency Taskforce on Regulatory Alignment to progress alignment of regulation across the care and support sector;

$48.5 million over two years for more than 15,000 low-free and free training places in aged care courses from January 1, 2023.

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