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2021 budget investment into aged care is only the beginning

Announced at the 2021 Federal Budget, the Morrison Government committed $17.7 billion over five years ($3.45 billion per year) to repair the aged care industry. This billion dollar investment into the sector is only the beginning and now the real fight begins to see how the troubled sector lifts its standards after the royal commission found it was failing residents and their families.

Released earlier this year, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety final report revealed over 148 recommendations were needed to improve the aged care sector, highlighting glaring holes that require immediate action. Out of the 148 recommendations, the government accepted, or accepted in principle, 126 of them, including commitments to improving quality standards and regulation, and providing better access to primary care. In mathematical terms, the Government accepted accountability for over 85 per cent of the report's findings. 

While the Government acknowledged the bulk of those recommendations, Australia won’t actually see many of those reforms in the near future. Besides an initial and particularly significant injection of funds to assist providers with a $10 per person per day increase, and a commitment to the new home care packages, the real, structural change will not begin until the second half of 2022 and much later.

Again, we must look back to proposed deadlines and accountability. We need actionable and strict deadlines in place to ensure that investment is married against outcomes and objectives with regular check-in points. Deadlines and timelines ensure compliance while encouraging accountability. 

For instance, coming into force on 1 July 2022, providers will have to report and publish care staffing minutes for each facility on the MyAgedCare website, and they will also be required to report to residents and their families on care delivered. Technology will play a big part in this development. 

Furthermore, looking back, The Grattan Institute estimated it would take up to $7 billion per year to fix the aged care problem, while we at Epicor also felt that the Government should be committing to $4 or $5 billion per year as a minimum. The investment put forward from the Government is just shy of that.  

The $652 million in workforce-specific funding isn’t enough to fix staff shortages. And even funding 13,000 extra home care workers as well as more than 33,000 new training places will not be enough to address the shortfall. The government does also plan to introduce 80,000 more home care packages and increase the number of care minutes.

Upskilling and training staff as well as offering better wages is also key to the industry bouncing back. Aged care suppliers and staff must have access to technology solutions in order to assist in the digital landscape shift while encouraging them to embrace change. Smart software can assist staff according to their availability and expertise, and enables organisations to schedule the right resources based on location, skills availability and client need. 

There are also those existing tech-savvy home care providers implementing fully-integrated and holistic software systems that are designed for home care providers – specifically, pairing it with smart technology in the homes of their clients to help in the provision of care. 

And while technology is also about staying connected, investment to those who deliver the care will ensure our connected hubs grow larger and more respected. Making sure people get the services they need, when they need them, from their preferred supplier can make a huge difference to the quality of care delivered and smart ERP software can certainly simplify this admin-heavy task away. 

As Treasurer Frydenberg addressed the nation on Tuesday, 11 May 2021: "‘Team Australia’ at its best. A nation to be proud of," – Instead let’s be a nation that strives to improve the aged care sector and meet deadlines, be accountable first. Then we can chant and cheer the good work we are doing. 

Greg O’Loan is the regional vice president for ANZ for Epicor Software

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