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Union, peaks ramp up calls for aged care overhaul ahead of Budget

In a fortnight, the government will reveal its Budget response to the royal commission’s final report, and worker and consumer representatives are this week ramping up their calls for government to act now.

It’s not too much

The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) has long campaigned for changes to staffing in aged care and its new campaign, called It’s Not Too Much, will span radio and TV and take the message directly to those in charge.

The campaign features mobile billboards that will chart the electorates of five key decision makers, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Aged Care Greg Hunt.

ANMF’s acting federal secretary Lori-Anne Sharp said: “Every day the Morrison Government delays taking action to address chronic understaffing in nursing homes, is another day that residents will continue to suffer. And another day that staff, (the majority of whom are women) continue to be overworked and undervalued. We must address this crisis immediately and mandate safe staffing ratios.”

The union said it wants to see mandated staffing ratios in nursing homes, registration for unregulated aged care workers and legislated transparency and accountability for taxpayer funding for aged care providers, as well as new laws around clinical governance, leadership and expertise in aged care.

“When additional funding is allocated to aged care in the 2021 Budget in response to the Royal Commission recommendations, the Morrison Government must ensure that for-profit providers are using additional taxpayer funds for its intended purposes – providing additional staff with the right skills mix so that they can deliver the care that elderly residents deserve,” Sharp said.

“Our aged care residents and those who care for them need the Morrison Government to act.”

Now is the time

Meanwhile, dementia advocates have rallied to call on the government to fund the Roadmap for Quality Dementia Care.

Prominent Australians including Professor Graeme Samuel, Ita Buttrose, Denis Walter, The Veronicas and Abbie Chatfield along with 200 advocates wrote to the Prime Minister urging the government to fund quality dementia care.

Professor Graeme Samuel, chair of Dementia Australia, said that after 20 years of reviews and reports, now is the time for the government to act.

“We have written to the Prime Minster as a matter of urgency to ensure this once in a generation opportunity to transform dementia care and the aged care system overall is seized by the government,” Samuel said.

“We expect a significant investment and transformation in the May budget that will make a profound difference to the experience of people affected by dementia – now and for generations to come. These reforms are well overdue.”

Peaks unite

Earlier this month, twelve aged care consumer organisations, led by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, issued a joint response to the final report, identifying important reforms they said are needed in the next 12-18 months.

Key among them were increased transparency from aged care providers, minimum staffing levels, wage increases for workers, stronger powers and a more versatile toolkit for an independent quality regulator, and a new rights-based Aged Care Act.

“The last thing Australians deserve is the government kicking the can down the road on many of the key changes we need,” said Ian Yates, chief executive of COTA Australia on behalf of the group.

“The Government cannot get away with cherry picking a few recommendations now but saying it will consider the rest later. That will not wash with the many hundreds of thousands of older Australians who are looking to this government to deliver them hope that they, and their families, will enjoy a radically better aged care system than the one we have today.”

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