With the ABC’s Four Corners program starting an investigation into the aged care sector next Monday – and assaults by aged care workers in the headlines – it’s not a surprise that the Coalition this week announced it would bring forward $90 million in funding for the sector promised in the May Budget.
This includes $50 million for providers and staff to improve quality and standards of care, while $40 million will be invested in infrastructure for regional, rural and remote aged care.
But this money was already outlined in the Budget for the next four years.
There is some new funding – $16 million for our new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission which is due to start 1 January 2019.
The Commission, which will see all of our aged care agencies including the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner brought together under one agency, is designed to improve the response to complaints, create specialist response teams and support consumers.
This is good news – and we would remind families that unannounced audits have already been introduced to monitor quality of care too.
The Department of Health recently told us that the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency (AACQA) had conducted 3,044 unannounced visits to aged care facilities in 2017-18.
Considering there are around 2,700 homes across Australia, that is a solid result.
A fair go for funding
But we do feel that these measures are just a stop-gap – rather than a long-term solution to the problems of staffing and funding.
The message we consistently hear from providers is that they are struggling to recruit and retain quality staff – nurses and care workers report that they lack career opportunities and feel undervalued.
And as discussed here, four in ten aged care facilities are now making a loss because of the previous Government freeze on funding and the increasing costs of direct care.
If we want to make sure staff are better trained – and quality standards are being met – we need a clear plan to develop our aged care workforce and fund the growing demand for services.
Yesterday the Government released the Aged Care Workforce Taskforce’s report ‘A matter of care – a strategy for Australia’s aged care workforce’ which lays out a plan to triple the number of workers in the sector.
We hope that they are reading it closely – and thinking beyond their struggling polls to what Australians really need in their later life.
After all, don’t we all deserve the best support as we age?