HACC case managers are amongst those waiting to see how the change at the top will affect their fate.
So, we have a new national government.
Since the election, we now also know there will be no minister for ageing or minister for aged care in Australia for at least the next three years.
Shouldn’t we have been told of this earlier, before the election? Would it have changed anyone’s vote if we had known?
Under the new arrangement, aged care will be represented in the outer ministry of the Abbott Government by the assistant minister for social services, Senator Mitch Fifield, who is from Victoria. His work falls under the portfolio of Kevin Andrews, minister for social services, who was minister for ageing from 2001–03.
The big question that the new assistant minister and minister will need to answer is what will become of the legislation and plans implemented by the Gillard/Rudd government. Will we continue Living Longer Live Better (LLLB) or is there another plan?
This is important because so many people have their lives invested in the answer. Those who now receive help, as well as those who will need it in the next few years, urgently need to know. But perhaps no one is more anxious than those who work in the industry.
Most aged-care staff can feel secure in the knowledge that in the longer term, demand for their work can only grow. But aged-care nurses and low-paid care workers who were counting on wage increases funded by an extra $1.5 billion the outgoing Labor government endorsed will no longer receive the pay increase they have so long sought.
The aged care workforce supplement, introduced as part of the Labor government’s Living Longer Living Better policy, was intended to ensure that many aged-care workers would receive minimum annual wage increases of 2.75 per cent, backdated to July. This will no longer be the case, as the Abbott Government says the extra pay was “more about boosting union membership than improving aged care” and will be redirecting the expenditure.
Another group of staff that are concerned about their futures are the case managers funded under the old Home and Community Care Program (HACC) as community options or linkages plans. These programs were to be abolished under the LLLB reforms, to be replaced by the Consumer Directed Care (CDC) initiative from 2015. Staff with whom I spoke at the NSW Community Options Conference in mid-October were fearful that their positions would be abolished and their jobs lost as a result of these changes.
Overseas experience shows that CDC programs require case management. In the Netherlands, for example, where what is widely regarded as the most successful and extensive CDC program operates, it quickly became apparent that most consumers found the CDC system too complex and the necessary record-keeping too onerous. Whilst carers and those who need the care were able to identify their needs, they sought expert help in identifying the resources available and organising the various forms of assistance they required. Rather than CDC replacing the work of case managers, it expanded it.
If CDC in Australia is to be a well-run program, it will need careful planning and case managers will need to organised and incorporated into the program. Plenty of work to be done by the new government if Australians are to live longer and better for the next three years and beyond!
Michael Fine is adjunct professor in the department of sociology at Macquarie University in Sydney.Do you have an idea for a story?
Email [email protected]