The federal government has highlighted the reforms it says it has made a year after the handing down of the final report of the aged care royal commission, but the sector’s peak body is calling for increased funding and a renewed focus on the needs of the aged care workforce.
“We responded to the recommendations and are now implementing this once-in-a-generation reform that puts senior Australians first,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt said.
“Our financial commitment is now more than $18.3 billion to fund this agenda for change across home care, residential care, quality and safety, workforce and governance.”
Minister Hunt highlighted the creation of the National Aged Care Advisory Group and the Council of Elders as a key step, with “reforms now guided by these two important groups”.
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said a boost to the number of home care packages had been a key priority in the year since the final report.
“At the end of 2021, 217,724 senior Australians had access to a home care package – that’s up 25 per cent since the end of 2020, thanks to the rollout of the first of the 80,000 packages announced in response to the Royal Commission,” Minister Colbeck said.
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), a group representing six aged care peak bodies (including LASA and ACSA), singled out the report’s workforce recommendations as the “key area of unfinished business”.
“We need the government to step up and commit to funding a pay rise for aged care staff and to put resources into recruitment and retention of staff as well as training. Current funding levels mean that most providers are unable to do this,” LASA CEO Sean Rooney said.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Paul Sadler agreed.
“The Government Response to the Royal Commission evaded two key areas: (1) Paying aged care workers what they are worth; and (2) How high quality aged care is to be financed into the future,” Sadler said.
“Since the start of the pandemic, aged care workers have gone above and beyond to deliver care. They have been on the frontline of the response, keeping people as safe as they could in uncertain times,” the AACC said.
“The Royal Commission recognised this. It called for higher wages, better qualifications, and more time for workers to spend with older people.”
To mark the one year anniversary the AACC urged all parties to support the aged care workforce by calling for:
“1. A Workforce Partnership Supplement for providers to spend immediately on increasing wages, training, minutes of care, 24-hour nursing and COVID-19 prevention and workforce retention costs.
“2. A minimum wage increase for aged care workers by funding the Fair Work Commission Work Value Case, and award wage increases from July 2022.
“3. A commitment to a multidisciplinary workforce by putting in place an allied health needs assessment and funding model by July 2024.”
“Without immediate changes to better support the workforce, the aged care sector will be unable to recover from the current crisis,” Rooney said.
“This will further impact the ability of providers to consistently meet the needs of the older Australians they care for.
“It’s time to make sure, once and for all, that older Australians get the care they deserve. This means adequately resourcing and enabling the staff and services that care for and support them.”
While it welcomed the Federal Government’s response in the May 2021 Budget, the AACC said “we have not seen a detailed plan to consult and deliver on the announced reforms”.
The AACC argued the commission’s modelling shows that, even with the government’s increased funding for the sector of $18.3 billion, after “so many years of underfunding, the announced investments will fall short of what is needed”.
“Action on Royal Commission-recommended reform is critical and the opportunity for lasting, systemic change must not be kicked down the road by government or lost altogether,” Sadler continued.
“All parties need to commit to funding the outcome of the Fair Work Commission aged care work value case. And all parties must ensure aged care is funded properly and sustainably so we can provide high quality services.”
The AACC is comprised of Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), Anglicare Australia, Baptist Care Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) and UnitingCare Australia.Do you have an idea for a story?
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