BUDGET 2021

Budget 2021: 'Our duty': $17.7bn plan to fix broken aged care system

Greenway couple Louise Nicholls and Harry Josephs were hoping to see funding for more home care packages in Tuesday's budget. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Greenway couple Louise Nicholls and Harry Josephs were hoping to see funding for more home care packages in Tuesday's budget. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

An extra 80,000 home care packages will be funded over the next two years as part of a record $17.7 billion federal budget investment aimed at repairing Australia's broken aged care system.

The package includes major spending promises to improve residential care and help address the sector's chronic workforce problems over the next five years.

While the Morrison government has trumpeted the investment as the largest ever in aged care, it does fall well short of the $40 billion, four-year commitment some advocates had been pushing for.

The package represents the government's response to the damning aged care royal commission, which exposed the sector as chronically underfunded, understaffed and plagued by high levels of neglect and abuse.

The government on Tuesday announced it had agreed either in full or in principle to 126 of the commission's 148 recommendations.

Six recommendations have been rejected, including proposals to introduce a new tax to help fund the sector.

The government will instead rely on economic growth to pay for what it has described as a "once in a generation" reform.

"Senior Australians built our nation," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

"They are our parents and grandparents, our founders and protectors, and they have contributed so much to our Australian communities."

"It is our duty and responsibility to give every Australian the care they need in their later years."

The package is built on five pillars spanning home care, residential care, the sector's workforce and new governance arrangements - which includes the establishment of a new Aged Care Act.

A total of $6.5 billion will be used to fund 40,000 home care packages in each of the next two years.

A total of 275,600 packages will be available by June 2023, an amount the government believes will be enough to clear a waiting list exceeding 100,000.

In a bid to lift the standard of residential care, aged care providers will be given a $10 per resident per day supplement - provided they meet standards on basics such as food and cleaning.

The supplement, which will come at a cost of $3.2 billion, will be paid from July 1.

A further $3.9 billion has been allocated to increase face-to-face care time for each resident.

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From October 2023, providers will be required to provide 200 minutes of care for each resident per day, including 40 minutes with a registered nurse.

The royal commission highlighted the sector's chronic workforce shortages, predicting an extra 180,000 staff would be needed by 2050 to support Australia's ageing population.

The budget package includes $652 million over four years to hire and train staff.

More than $90 million will be spent to add an extra 13,000 home care workers. A further $228 million has been allocated to create a single workforce to improve the quality and consistency of assessments for older Australians.

Louise Nicholls was hopeful the budget would include funding for extra home care packages to help tens of thousands of older Australians and their families.

Mrs Nicholls and husband Harry Josephs are "ageing in place" - spending their later years at home rather than in a retirement village or aged care.

But the Greenway couple know that many older Australians don't have the same good fortune.

Mrs Nicholls, 74, said she spent the past few years "bashing her head against a wall" as she tried without success to find suitable care for her frail aunty who lived alone.

She eventually secured a place for her elderly relative in a private aged care home in Bruce.

"It is such a load off to know she is finally in place with a beautiful room," she said.

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This story 'Our duty': $17.7bn plan to fix broken aged care system first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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