The aged-care sector will probably benefit from a raft of measures announced in last night’s federal Budget but it has not completely avoided Treasurer Joe Hockey’s quest for savings, and industry experts are warning of threats to service quality.
Amongst the many listed measures that will affect the sector was a reduction to the Aged Care Workforce Fund – now the Aged Care Workforce Development Fund – of $40.2 million over four years for better targeting of aged-care development support.
Alzheimer’s Australia chief executive Carol Bennett had serious concerns about the measure. She said it was vital that such a move not result in “a reduction in the quality of life for people impacted by dementia through poor training of staff and a lack of focus on dementia-specific approaches”.
“It is paramount that programs that make a huge difference to the quality of care for people with dementia, such as Dementia Care Essentials – funded through this program stream – are not only maintained but enhanced to meet demand,” Bennett said.
Her concern was echoed by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) chief executive Patrick Reid, who said the cut could potentially “jeopardise innovation and put quality at risk”.
“It is our workforce that underpins quality and innovation in age services, and the impact of changes to the not-for-profit employment benefits, along with a reduction in the workforce development funds, cannot be ignored,” Reid said.
However, Reid welcomed the government’s announcement that it intended to privatise aged-care accreditation, calling it a win for quality, consumer choice and innovation in the sector.
With the number of Australians relying on age services expanding rapidly, Reid said, urgently needed change and innovation is being stymied by regulation.
“The age services industry needs innovation to drive competition, improve quality standards and give consumers more options,” Reid said. “We firmly believe the independent provision of accreditation services in aged care will lead to improved services for our ageing population.”
Meanwhile, Bennett welcomed several other aged-care measures in the budget, including an increase in short-term restorative care places from 4000-6000 – to be funded with savings from the aged-care planning ratio – along with $33.7 million in funding over four years for access, information, support and referral to carer-specific supports and services. The latter measure, Bennett said, would support carers who often provide care to people with dementia, including investment in a Carers Gateway.
Finally, Bennett said, a $73.7 million allocation over four years for Home Care Packages, aimed at increasing consumer control, choice and flexibility through enhanced Consumer Directed Care (CDC) was very welcome.
“There is still work to be done to ensure that these measures deliver on that promise by ensuring choice of providers, affordability and access to specialty dementia services,” she said.Do you have an idea for a story?
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