The ‘declining’ financial sustainability of Australia’s aged care sector will see taxpayer costs for services double over the next 40 years, according to a new report.
Researchers from the UTS Ageing Research Collaborative (UARC) published a new independent discussion paper identifying a range of barriers affecting the future viability of aged care services.
The report said that a declining workforce, increased economic pressures and shifting community are creating immense strain.
“There is an urgent need for a national policy debate on the sustainability of publicly subsidised aged care services in Australia,” said lead author professor Mike Woods.
“A sustainable aged care system is crucial to the well-being of current and future senior Australians and their families.
“Equally, it is of fundamental importance to taxpayers, providers and the sector’s workforce.”
Taxpayers currently spend $27 billion dollars per year on subsidised aged care, the report said, a figure set to double by 2062.
The number of people aged 85 and older is also projected to triple to 1.9 million by 2060-61.
The report highlighted that 60 per cent of Australia's aged care providers are operating at a loss, with earnings per resident falling by 44 per cent in the three years to 2019-20.
Co-author professor Nicole Sutton says if left unaddressed the consequences could be “substantial”.
“Senior Australians would bear the brunt of a failing system, but it would have flow-on effects to taxpayers, providers and aged care workers,” she said.
Improving workforce conditions was identified as a critical measure to improve financial sustainability.
"Another ongoing priority is to invest in training and development to improve aged care workers’
knowledge, skills and professional attributes," the report said.
"Skilled workers tend to complete tasks in less time, make fewer mistakes, help train others, and be more innovative and adaptable."
In the 2021-22 Federal Budget, the government allocated $338.5 million for workforce skills, training and registration.
The new federal government also committed to fee-free TAFE and 20,000 extra university places to direct more nurses and care workers into the sector.
More commitments will be needed to support the workforce, the report said, such as directing more resources to personal care workers, as they deliver 75 per cent of direct care in Australia.
Federal Labor has promised to establish a national registration scheme for personal care workers by mid- 2023.
This would see mandatory English proficiency screenings for workers, more training requirements and a revitalised code of conduct.
The report also called for government subsidies to aged care to be used more effectively, more investment into technology and increased accountability around expenditure.Do you have an idea for a story?
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