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PM announces $662 million funding package for aged care

As a royal commission into Australia’s aged care industry kicks into gear, the federal government has announced funding for the sector to the tune of $662 million.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced every Australian living in residential aged care will have an extra $1800 spent on their care over the next 18 months, with $320 million set to be rolled out to residential facilities.

COTA Australia was glad about the extra $320 million, but added it wishes the funding was tied to better staffing.

“It is disappointing there are no conditions attached,” chief executive Ian Yates said.

“I expect many of the issues and unsatisfactory practices that will be raised during the Aged Care Royal Commission… will be attributed to inadequate staff numbers and poor staff training and development.

“While inadequate funding is never a defence for unsafe practices, it is an issue in achieving the highest level of quality care to ensure the dignity, respect, autonomy and citizenship of all nursing home residents. While the government has not quarantined its extra funding to improve staffing, as we argued for, I would urge all providers to use it for that purpose and not to generate extra profits.

“We will be keeping an eagle eye on this.”

On top of the residential and home care funding tied up in the announcement was $7.7 million to improve the quality and safety regime for home care and the trial of a new method of funding residential care.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) chief executive Sean Rooney said the announcement of the trial’s funding acknowledges that the current approach is inadequate.

“It is the core funding arrangements for the sector, and how the funding tool is able to respond to the true cost of care, that has been our biggest ongoing concern,” Rooney said, adding any trial should look at staffing models to ensure for a better understanding of necessary staffing and skills mix.

A number of peak bodies (including COTA Australia, LASA and Dementia Australia) welcomed the announcement the government would bring forward funding for 10,000 extra home care packages but added that much more needs to be done to tackle the inflated home care wait list.

Labor aged care spokesperson Julie Collins said the latest funding did not make up for what the opposition says has been a series of cuts from the sector under the past five years of coalition government.

“Scott Morrison’s election eve announcement on aged care funding is too little too late,” she said. “The waiting list for home care has grown to 127,000 older Australians, with many waiting more than a year to receive the care they have been approved for.”

The funding package includes:

  • $282.4 million for 10,000 home care packages across all levels
  • A $320 million general subsidy boost in 2018-19 for residential aged care services
  • A $4.2 million mandatory national aged care quality indicator program
  • $7.7 million to enhance the safety, quality and integrity of home care
  • $35.7 million to increase home care supplements for dementia and cognition and veterans
  • A $4.6 million trial of a new residential care funding tool to replace the Aged Care Funding Instrument
  • A new $7.4 million business advisory service for both residential and home care providers to help them improve their operations and share best practice.
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