Pork barrelling targets elderly

Elderly Australians are among those singled out by the major parties for some serious pork barrelling ahead of next year’s Federal Election.

On Monday, the Coalition announced it would be shelling out $553 million extra for aged and home care services, with total spending in the sector expected to reach a record $23.5 billion in 2021-22.

The announcement by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg included bringing forward the release of 10,000 home care packages for older Australians needing high-level support.

The largesse will be made possible by a better-than-expected Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). Treasury said it had collected $8.3 billion more than it forecast in tax receipts for the first half.

It is forecasting a reduction of almost 60 per cent in the deficit to $5.2 billion for this financial year, with expectations of reporting a surplus of $4.1 billion in the next.

The MYEFO statement said: “An additional $287.3 million has been provided to bring forward by one year to 2018-19 the release of 5000 level 3 and 5000 level 4 home care packages to connect more older Australians with high-level home care support.

“The Government is also providing $56.4 million to assist people in home care by reducing the maximum basic daily fee service providers can charge.

“In addition, the Government will provide $111.2 million to increase the residential aged care viability and homeless supplements by 30 per cent to support people in residential aged care in regional, rural and remote areas of Australia and those at risk of homelessness.

“The Government has established a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to examine the quality and safety of care provided to senior Australians in residential and home-based aged care and to young Australians with disabilities living in aged care.

“The Government will provide $104.3 million over four years from 2018-19 for the royal commission and $17.2 million over two years from 2018-19 to the Department of Health, the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to support activities associated with the royal commission.”

Other initiatives signalled include an extra $98 million to improve access to GPs in residential aged care facilities and establishing a new National Elder Abuse Hotline.

The extra spending was flagged days after Labor committed to a long list of beefed up support for the aged care sector. On the first day of the party’s national conference on Sunday, it pledged to:

  • support appropriate aged care funding that protects and maintains employment standards with proper regard to relevant industrial instruments
  • protect, maintain and support employment standards and training models to enhance job security and minimise the spread of casualised and insecure work
  • support a positive focused professional registration and accreditation scheme for employees
  • ensure a base level of funding for aged care alongside consumer-directed care

  • develop best practice standards and accreditation of supports in consultation with stakeholders so quality controls are established, maintained and properly funded
  • maintain a high minimum standard of quality care, underpinned by adequate staffing levels with the appropriate mix of skills
  • support the right to fair, sustainable, quality care services appropriate to their needs
  • provide access to a greater choice of support and care arrangements, and control who provides these and the terms on which they are provided
  • make it easier navigate the aged care system in order to obtain the care they need
  • provide equity of access to services for different population groups
  • provide open and transparent information and data on facilities, services and staffing
  • increase accountability of tax payer funding provided to all aged care facilities and services, including not-for-profits and private providers.

Do you think the Government’s planned spending on aged care services will go far enough? If not, what would you propose?

Related articles:
Care providers to feel heat
Aged care ‘a dirty word’
Home care boost

Written by Olga Galacho

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