The funding is needed but there’s much more to do.
That’s the general consensus among aged care groups and representative bodies in the fallout of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement of $537 million for aged care.
It came on the back of the release of the aged care royal commission’s interim report and targeted the areas the team said needed urgent action – boosting the number of home care packages, a response to over-reliance on chemical restraint and stopping young people from entering aged care.
Home care packages
The bulk of the money was dedicated to 10,000 home care packages, medication management programs and new targets for getting young people out of residential aged care.
While COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates applauded the home care funding, he said a plan to urgently reduce home care waiting times was still missing from the equation.
“The addition of 10,000 new home care packages is a relief for some of the tens of thousands of older Australians who cannot afford to wait for the care they need,” Yates said but added it was regrettable that the government has not yet developed a plan to reduce wait times to a maximum of 60 days over the next 2 to 3 years.
Yates said: “While 10,000 new mainly high-level home care packages are certainly welcome, waiting times remain completely unacceptable and Australians are suffering and dying as they wait for appropriate care.”
Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA) agreed, saying with 120,000 people waiting for a package, they “will not even touch the sides of demand” from older Australians.
But the peak added that it supported the long-term home care reform signalled in the announcement to create a unified home care program including a single assessment workforce. “This has been recommended for some time to better support people at home, so it is pleasing to see a commitment to action,” said ACSA chief executive Patricia Sparrow.
Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe welcomed the government’s steps toward reducing the use of chemical restraint.
“While guidelines on the use of chemical restraint do exist, ensuring these are implemented is vital,” McCabe said.
“There needs to be a larger commitment from all stakeholders to dementia education to eliminate the inappropriate use of antipsychotic medication, and to improve the health and care outcomes for people living with dementia.”
And while McCabe said the $10 million earmarked for training will help, she added more funding is needed to educate the more than 360,000 people working in the aged care sector.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) chief executive Craig Gear said chemical restraint is an insidious problem and requires all parts of the aged care, medical and health systems to work together to solve it.
The group called for a ‘Last NOT First’ approach to chemical restraint, better regulation and monitoring, and for the government’s response to include funding to educate older people and their families.
Young in aged care
The Young People in Nursing Homes Alliance, a collective of organisations supporting younger people in residential aged care, applauded the government for its new targets that would see no younger person enter residential aged care by 2022 and no one under 65 years in aged care by 2025.
Alliance head Dr Bronwyn Morkham said: “The targets reflect the urgency of this problem – and they are certainly achievable – but it’s essential that we start now.
“We’re ready to work with the government to develop and implement its new strategy. We look forward to seeing more detail about these new initiatives, to make sure the strategy delivers on its promise.”
Dr Di Winkler, chief executive of alliance member Summer Foundation, said too many younger people end up in aged care because they fall through cracks between the health and disability systems. “Bringing all the relevant agencies together is the only way we can stop this from continuing to happen.”
What else was needed?
Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) called the government’s response to the interim report a missed opportunity, saying there appeared to have been no movement at all on the urgent risks facing residential care.
Chief executive Sean Rooney said: “We have told the government that residential care services need $1.3 billion in additional operational funding right now to avoid the risk of unplanned closures, service failures and job losses.
“Financial pressures are no doubt a significant factor in the looming closure of three regional aged care facilities in New South Wales and Victoria.”
And the Australian Nursing and Midwifery federation (ANMF) said the package failed to address the real causes of the “shocking tale of neglect” outlined in the report.
ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler said: “The royal commission’s report has laid out the extent of the problems in aged care and the work that will need to be done. The reform that is needed will require additional funding, which will have to be underpinned by informed policy guidance and accountability measures.
“However, today’s announcement is little more than a politically expedient attempt to try and convince Australians that the Government is ‘doing something’ about aged care.”
The United Workers Union was similarly disappointed in the lack of broader funding.
National director of aged care Carolyn Smith said the government “continues to deal out band aids” to the sector. “The royal commission has explicitly addressed the fact that workforce is the key to providing quality care, and this announcement completely fails to provide funding for that.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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