MYEFO funding increases, the workforce strategy taskforce, aged care quality standards legislation and, most importantly, public awareness. These are some positives to come from a tough 2018 for the aged care sector, according to industry representatives.
For the coming year, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will take up a lot of headlines, but for the peak bodies there are some good news stories for the year ahead. ACSA chief executive Pat Sparrow highlights their Humans of Aged Care storytelling platform as an important insight into the industry.
“We think it’s important for two reasons,” Sparrow says. “One is just because it does highlight the good, and I think it’s going to be important through this year as the media attention is likely to be negative. We’re very keen to see that there’s a balance in what’s presented to the community because we believe the majority of aged care is good and that people need to hear those stories so that aged care is not only associated with those rare stories that the media are focused on.”
ACSA’s workforce and industry development unit is also a big focus for Sparrow in the coming year. This will include recruitment, skills development and innovation, as well as a continuing focus on home care. “There’s still in excess of 120,000 people waiting for home care, which is just not really on,” Sparrow says.
LASA chief executive Sean Rooney points to the aged care workforce strategy as a significant step forward in improving the sector, as well as the recent MYEFO funding boost, albeit with a caveat.
“I think if you look at funding, there’s obviously still ongoing funding issues, that notwithstanding that in the MYEFO there was a significant amount of funds brought back into the sector, so that’s a good move, but still way short of what’s needed,” Rooney says.
Rooney and LASA are continuing to encourage future aged care workers with their NEXT GEN initiative and are also looking to initiate communication in the industry with a view to constant improvement.
“We have established a new programme called Communities of Practice. This is an online platform for our members to engage, not only with LASA, but with each other, regarding issues of operational importance to them. So, we’ve established a clinical governance community of practice where RNs and executives, and then care workers can convene to talk about key issues around clinical care and clinical governance,” he says.
Maree McCabe, chief executive of Dementia Australia, sees the emergence of a unified, national Dementia Australia as a big leap forward for elder care.
“After unifying state and territory bodies into one entity, with our combined voice, we are stronger and more able to raise awareness of all forms of dementia and the issues facing the more than 436,000 Australians who live with dementia,” she said. “In 2019 we look forward to using our unique position and voice to advocate for people of all ages with all forms of dementia on behalf of our community, especially as the Royal Commission into Aged Care progresses.”
On top of this, McCabe points to the implementation of a new five-year strategic plan as a priority, and focuses on timely diagnosis and support, quality care and tackling the discrimination many with a diagnosis of dementia experience every day.
“One of the issues that we face here in Australia is that aged care is a little bit of a poor second cousin,” laments Aged Care Guild chief executive, Matt Richter.
“The success is that now we have a real national focus on aged care and for people that’s challenging because it is coming through the life of a royal commission, but it’s a critical step and a positive thing,” he adds.
Looking forward to 2019, Richter and the guild is working on greater transparency within the industry, but he believes last year’s announcement of new aged care quality standards is the big story for this year.
“I think they are the most important thing happening in aged care right now,” he says. “They represent a real fundamental, landmark shift in culture and mentality that will be required of everyone to deliver on. And it goes a long way to putting elderly Australians at the centre of care.”
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt believes that in spite of the issues we have seen, the sector had some successes last year.
“I think the sector has had a good year in the sense of coming together and looking at the workforce needs for the next 30 years. The work that I commissioned John Pollaers to do with the sector has come back now with a recognition by the industry that they have not planned for a workforce that they will need as more and more Australians age,” he said.
The establishment of the Industry Reference Committee, a body that works with all the state and territory schools authorities and the Australian Schools Authority to ensure they start to factor in the age care industry, is another plus and the additional funding from the budget and MYEFO, according to Wyatt, “means that government is seriously thinking about the needs of older Australians in terms of better access to care, better quality of care and better ageing under More Choices for a Longer Life”.
As for the Royal commission, Wyatt sees it as the start of a conversation in Australia.
“The Royal Commission has been framed in a way that is not about the punitive element of the Royal Commission’s work,” he explains. “It is about looking to a future of structural reform, but in the process what I hope happens is that people will talk more and more about ageing, more about the sense of living longer, but more importantly, about planning better than what we do.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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