Health industry and welfare advocates have slammed the government’s failure to address aged care workers’ pay and conditions, social housing and dentistry for older Australians in the Federal Budget.
Critics have described it as a ‘sugar hit’ Budget, designed to get the Coalition over the line at the federal election.
As such, there have been some sweeteners for voters, including a cut to the petrol excise and a $250 one-off, cost-of-living payment.
The Older Women’s Network (OWN) said it was an excellent Budget if you didn’t care about poverty or homelessness.
OWN said the housing crisis for older women was not addressed in the Budget with zero spending on increasing the stock of public and social housing.
“We have older women sleeping in their cars calling our offices asking for help and we can’t do anything for them,” said OWN president Beverly Baker.
Read: Aged care reform blasted
“What’s the point of a one-time $250 handout?
“That’s not enough to buy them a home, which is what they really want.
“It’ll just get them a better quality blanket to keep warm when they’re sleeping in their cars.”
According to the Australia Human Rights Commission, women aged 55 and older are the fastest growing cohort of homeless in Australia.
Flaws in the aged care section were held up to a spotlight during the worst days of the pandemic, but the federal government seems to have chosen a path of inaction for this year’s Budget.
There is currently no extra funding for aged care. The federal government did announce a $17.7 billion funding boost for the sector last year, but there has been no movement on wage increases for workers.
In fact, of the 265,000 aged care workers eligible for the $800 bonus announced by the government in January, only 3 per cent have received the payment according to a survey by the United Workers Union.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said it was not good enough.
“It makes no sense to us that aged care workers are some of the most important workers in our country and our community and are some of the worst paid,” he said.
“One of the recommendations out of the royal commission was that the government support the Fair Work Commission process to get a decent pay rise for these crucial workers, that’s our position. We will support, enthusiastically, a pay rise for these workers.
“The difference between Labor and Liberal on this case is that Labor wants to see a genuine pay rise for these workers. We’ve said for about a year now that we would support that case.”
The Australian Dental Association Victoria Branch (ADAVB) described the Budget as “disappointing”.
“The Federal Budget falls short in addressing the gaping hole in public dental funding,” the association said in a statement.
“It is a missed opportunity to address one of the key recommendations of the aged care royal commission – the introduction of a Medicare Seniors Dental Benefits Scheme.
“One in four Australians aged over 75 suffer from untreated tooth decay and 69 per cent have gum disease.
“The ADAVB is disappointed that the Federal Budget has once again failed to deliver any additional new measures to address dental health.
“There are more than 150,00 adult patients on waiting lists in Victoria alone, with an average waiting time of 25 months, so it is clear that this budget falls well short.”
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