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Beyond the democracy sausage: pre-election promises start

With a federal election looming, the Greens have announced a funding model for aged care, a component of their ‘human rights-based approach to funding’.

Part of their package will provide funding for 50,000 new level 3 and 4 home care packages, costing over $5 billion.

They also pledge staff to resident ratios in residential care, including one RN rostered on 24 hours a day and an extra $3 billion devoted to increasing the pay for aged care workers and increasing the face time for residents to four hours and eighteen minutes per day.

The Greens’ proposals represent a total cost of approximately $8 billion. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert says the party talked with a number of stakeholders to come up with their numbers, but looking at wait lists for home care was the key reason behind their pledge.

“COTA came out a little while ago with their pre-budget submission or election asks, saying 30,000 packages. Now they made it clear that that was not their final, that was their more immediate call,” Siewert said.

“So, we think looking at the waiting lists, we need many more, which is why we said 50,000, and we got that costed by the PBO (the Parliamentary Budget Office), so that’s where those numbers come from.”

As for the staff ratios pledge, the Greens aren’t ready to advocate for specific numbers.

“We have [talked to the ANMF]. I’ve had a lot of discussions in a number of forums with them. As you can see we also support staff ratios, but we haven’t adopted their specific ratios,” Siewert said.

“So, we do think that there needs to be ratios, but it needs to be more nuanced, which is why we’re talking about an ideal skills mix.”

The royal commission recently heard Fiona Buffinton, who heads up the health department’s in home aged care division, and she believes that current funding is not sufficient.

“In answer to your question, ‘Will this be sufficient to get wait times to a reasonable level?’ It will need additional investment to that,” she said.

Despite this, the government – after a flurry of new funding releases post the announcement of the royal commission – remains bullish in its belief that it is the party to improve the sector.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt told Aged Care Insite that: “Our Government is continuing with reform while the royal commission goes about its important work. We have increased aged care funding by $1 billion a year since 2013 and will further lift annual funding by $5 billion over the next four years.”

He also points to an additional 20,000 home care packages, released over the period from December last year to February this year, as important as well as the establishment of “Australia’s first independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission”.

“We are pushing ahead with reforms to residential aged care funding arrangements with a trial of a new funding tool that will be a game changer in the way that services are funded.

“We also want the royal commission to contribute to a culture of respect for all senior Australians,” Wyatt said.

Labor Shadow Minister for Ageing Julie Collins wouldn’t be drawn on the Greens’ funding announcement or the specifics of Labor policy were they to be voted in to govern, though she did have comment on the current Government’s performance.

Collins told Aged Care Insite: “Labor is the party of aged care reform and older Australians can be assured we will always do better for older Australians in residential aged care and those waiting for care at home.”

“Scott Morrison and the Liberals have not done enough to fix the crisis in our aged care system. They have been too distracted by dysfunction and division.

“Scott Morrison cut $1.2 billion from aged care in his first Budget as Treasurer – backing in a $500 million cut in his first MYEFO. Older Australians deserve better. Scott Morrison cannot be trusted with aged care,” she said.

Siewert is disappointed that it has taken a royal commission for the aged care sector to get the attention it needs but believes the Greens’ human rights-based approach is the right framework to deliver proper care.

“Some of us have been caring about this for a very long time. We’ve been unable to attract the sort of attention [needed] to it. And it’s taken the outrageous things that we’ve seen in the media for it to get sustained attention from the government and from broader Australia.

“At the UN there’s a push for a convention for older people, which I think is a very good idea.

“So we’re coming from the approach that we need to be underpinning our aged care system with a human rights-based approach and putting people’s human rights at the forefront of any framework,” she said.

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