Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney advocates that aged care requires urgent funding support in the 2018-19 Federal Budget to ensure quality services are available for older Australians where and when they need them.
Budget priorities for the aged care system are:
- Additional support for residential aged care providers to address financial sustainability concerns driven by the combination of increased costs and reduced Government subsidies;
- Funding for over 100,000 older Australians on the home care national queue who are assessed as requiring care at home, but unable to access a home care package commensurate with their assessed level of need; and
- Targeted measures to support continuity and sustainability of age services delivered in regional, rural and remote communities.
Mr Rooney said a ‘stronger Australian economy’ has delivered much higher revenue to Government providing increased capacity to support aged care.
“I am calling on the Federal Government to prioritise the care of older Australians,” Mr Rooney said.
“The Government has recently announced $4.8 billion of additional revenue from higher than estimated tax receipts to the Commonwealth.
“This revenue provides scope to address the needs of the growing number of older Australians.”
Mr Rooney said recent changes to residential care funding arrangements have contributed to a squeeze on the cost of delivering care and on provider organisations’ sustainability.
“While overall Government subsidies in residential aged care are growing year on year, this is largely addressing the increasing number of residents being cared for rather than the complex actual needs of these residents,” Mr Rooney said.
“In particular, the Aged Care Funding Instrument simply allocates a fixed pool of funds and is not suitably responsive to the level of frailty among residents.”
New data recently released by independent industry analyst StewartBrown shows that 41% of residential aged care providers were making a loss at December 2017 compared with 31% in 2015-16 – and the situation is predicted to get even worse.
This set of circumstances impacts on continuity of residential care services, as well as investment in new residential care facilities and on refurbishing existing ones, despite the fact that Australia is predicted to need another 83,500 beds over the next 10 years to meet the rising demand.
“Similarly, we have seen the national queue for home care packages continue to grow to over 100,000, with some on the waiting list forced into residential care sooner than they would prefer due to unavailability of packages, which is costing government even more,” Mr Rooney said.
“Unless there is urgent action in the 2018-19 Budget that addresses these issues, there will be significant impacts for older Australians, age services providers and the Government.”
Mr Rooney said the aged care industry understands the realities of finite federal funding and in response is calling for a rethink on how to fund the aged care system into the future.
“In order to meet the needs of our ageing population we need to develop a long term, sustainable funding strategy for age services in Australia. A strategy that would resolve aged care funding for the next two decades as our country transitions to supporting the ‘baby boomer’ generation to age well,” Mr Rooney said.
“Such a strategy would bring stability and security to funding Australia’s aged care system and ensure our country has a high performing, respected and sustainable age services industry that delivers accessible, affordable, quality care and services for all older Australians.
“LASA is calling on Government to make 2018-19 a year of action in aged care.”
 Aged Care Financing Authority Report 2015-2016.