The Prime Minister has announced further funding measures to stem the tide of the coronavirus and protect the aged care sector.
On Friday Scott Morrison outlined a $445 million package that will include:
- $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care workers
- $26.9 million to supplement the viability of residential aged care facilities and homeless providers
- $92 million for home care providers and organisations such as meals on wheels
- $12.3 million to support other aged care services
This package is on top of the $100 million pledged the previous week to support the aged care workforce.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said that these measures show that protecting older Australians is a priority.
“Aged care is a critical sector that faces staffing challenges as existing staff are either subject to self-isolation requirements due to COVID-19 or are unable to attend work.
“We know we are asking a lot of this critical workforce as we face this unprecedented health emergency. Their work practices are changing – and today’s announcement is in recognition of this,” he said.
Colbeck broke the funding down further and said the measures include $234.9 million for a COVID-19 ‘retention bonus’ to ensure the continuity of the workforce for aged care workers in both residential and home care.
That works out as a payment of up to $800 after tax per quarter – paid for two quarters – for direct care workers; and two payments of up to $600 after tax per quarter – for two quarters – for those who provide care in the home. Payments will be delivered to providers to pay their workers and part-time workers will be paid a pro-rata rate.
The package also includes:
• $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply.
• $26.9 million for a temporary 30 per cent increase to the Residential and Home Care Viability Supplements and the Homeless Supplement. This includes equivalent viability funding increases for National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program providers, Multi-Purpose Services and homeless providers.
• $92.2 million in additional support to home care providers and organisations which deliver the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, operating services including meals on wheels. This will include services for people in self-isolation such as shopping and meal delivery; and
• $12.3 million to support the My Aged Care service to meet the surge in aged care-specific COVID-19 enquiries, allowing for additional staff to minimise call wait times.
The announcement was welcomed by many peak bodies; however, they stressed the need for this funding to reach the sector quickly.
“The challenge for the Federal Government is to make sure the workers who will be running aged care in this time of crisis get the money they have been promised,” Carolyn Smith, the National Aged Care Director of the United Workers Union said.
“The $235 million for retention bonuses is welcome recognition of the importance of aged carers. It must not be soaked up by the top layer or go missing in red tape.”
However, Smyth said that the $78.3 million in additional funding for residential care to support continuity of workforce supply shows a distinct lack of understanding of the sector from the government.
“Scott Morrison doesn’t ‘get’ aged care – the funding is inadequate because it misunderstands the extent of issues the sector is already facing,” Ms Smith said.
“Overwork, understaffing and the inability to find appropriate time to care for the elderly in their care are the big issues for aged care workers.
“Given the size of the existing problem demonstrated by the Royal Commission, this funding doesn’t even get us back to square one, let alone dealing with the mammoth challenges that are going to be facing aged care during the coronavirus crisis.
“If this coronavirus continues on its current trajectory, Scott Morrison needs to rethink this funding for extra staff, and substantially increase it,” she said.
An alliance of aged care industry bodies welcomed additional support for the sector, but said it still falls short of what will be required to maintain all of the essential aged care services needed during COVID-19.
In a joint statement, Leading Age Services Australia, Aged & Community Services Australia, Aged Care Guild, BaptistCare Australia, Anglicare Australia said that the sector is already in a state of financial duress, so any added financial measures need to take that into consideration.
“A new report from StewartBrown shows that ongoing financial pressure now sees 56 per cent of residential care facilities operating at a loss,” the statement read.
“The impact of COVID-19 is adding significantly more financial and operational pressure on providers as they do all they can to protect older Australians in care.
“These financial risks are as real as the challenges faced by airlines, tourism and hospitality.
“Further aged care support measures will be needed so that the sector can maintain a sustained campaign to protect older Australians in care.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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