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Millions of reasons why

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As more and more Australians are prevented access to age services, more care and services are needed. By Aileen Macalintal

Every 71 minutes an Australian is denied age services. Since Medicare does not universally fund age services, Australians must rely on family as they are placed in a vulnerable position.

To address this, a campaign called “Three Million Reasons” has been launched to secure a safety net for their health.

Retired general Peter Cosgrove launched the “Three Million Reasons” campaign in Sydney, promoting and supporting the age service workforce, as well as highlighting the need for critical planning and smarter funding of aged services.

Cosgrove is the chair of Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the industry’s peak body.

“Three Million Reasons is based on the fact that there are three million Australians aged 65 and over,” said Cosgrove, quoting a statistic from the 2011 Census.

“As Australians live longer, this number will double by 2050. Despite age services being in the midst of reform, there is much more we need to do in order to meet the demands, today, let alone the looming liability,” he said.

LASA CEO Patrick Reid said support for the industry must triple in the next 30 to 40 years, yet the government does not fund it well.

Reid said “The age services workforce must triple by 2050, and in last week’s budget $80 million was clawed back from Health Workforce Australia. This is a worrying sign and does not suggest the government is taking the need to support and grow the workforce seriously.

“The numbers are real and they are quite sobering; 83,000 beds need to be built in residential aged care in the next nine years at an estimated cost of $17 billion,” he said.

The government has recently delivered a pay rise to age service workers who are receiving low wages, and this will be funded from the budget that provides direct care and services to older Australians. However, LASA believed this is not a sustainable strategy and that the workforce deserves better.

Age services matter not only to current recipients but every Australian who in the future will need the services.

The Three Million Reasons campaign is also engaging politicians to ensure that the care of older Australians is taken into account in the lead-up to the 14 September election and beyond.

“In the lead-up to the election, this issue will again be highlighted and this campaign will publish the federal politicians committed to helping older Australians to live well,” said Cosgrove.

“Despite age services being in the midst of reform there is much more we need to do in order to meet the demands today, let alone the looming liability,” he said.

During the campaign launch, Cosgrove spent the day meeting with many elderly Australians and the carers, hearing their stories and the difficulties they encounter on a daily basis.

Beth Cameron, CEO of LASA WA commended Cosgrove’s campaign in support of better age services throughout Australia. “Australia needs a significant increase in age services to meet the enormous demands of our ‘ageing’ population, which means more government funding that reflects the true cost-of-care,” Cameron said.

“The staff and providers of age services overcome enormous challenges in maintaining the standards of care we all expect. Three Million Reasons will highlight that our older Australians need more support which is placed squarely on the shoulders of our age services and their workforce,” she said.

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