Is there ‘new money’ in the Budget for home care or not?
It’s a question we’ve been asked this week as Labor and the Coalition continue to argue over the $5 billion in funding announced in the recent Federal Budget.
The Opposition has labelled the figure a “hoax”, saying that the money has been stripped from residential aged care.
We asked Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) CEO Ian Yates to separate the facts from the fiction for us.
He says the good news is that the $1.6 billion for the extra 14,000 Level 3 and 4 Home Care Packages (HCPs) announced is real.
The money for this has come from a shortfall in spending in residential aged care because of a drop in occupancy levels. This makes sense – fewer people are going into aged care because more are using home care packages to stay at home longer.
Show me the money
According to Mr Yates, these savings should have been sent back to the Government’s coffers, but COTA lobbied the Government to put the funding back into spending.
In another plus, the budgets for residential care and home care are also being merged from 1 July –meaning any shortfall in residential funding will be able to be diverted to home care.
Under these new arrangements, home care packages will jump from 87,000 now to 151,000 in 2021/22 including another 34,000 higher-level three and four packages.
The bad news is this falls far short of what is needed to meet demand. Most of the 104,000 people currently on the waiting list have been assessed as needing higher-level packages – and there are not enough to go around.
There is also the biggest problem in aged care – staffing. The latest figures from SEEK show jobs for aged care workers and nurses are the biggest growing market in Australia – and the positions aren’t all being filled.
New money for home care is welcome – as long as the Government has a plan to boost the workforce too.