Thumbs down for aged care plan

Union, employers blast government package

Aged care providers say they will be worse off under a planned overhaul of the sector, despite the federal government committing an extra $1.5 billion in funding.

Two provider organisations have called on the government to urgently resolve the flaws in its package of changes announced in early February.

And the package will do little to improve the quality of aged care, the NSWNA said. The union called for additional funding to be tied to a review of accreditation standards, minimum staffing levels and adequate mix of workforce skills.

General Secretary Brett Holmes said aged care employs too few nurses who are generally underpaid.

He pointed out that the most common reason for non-compliance with aged care accreditation standards is inadequate clinical care.

‘Funding should be targeted to achieve adequate staffing levels and the correct mix of workers,’ Brett said.

‘Paying aged care workers a decent wage is an essential first step. Currently nurses working in aged care earn a lot less on average than other nurses.’

The government said its package, which includes 7,200 more in-home care places, increased funding to high-level residential care and the ability to charge new residents higher fees, was designed to make aged care fairer and more affordable.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) initially welcomed the changes, but later announced that closer inspection had revealed ‘significant negative impacts’.

ACSA, which represents more than 1,200 community-based providers, said the package would not resolve the longstanding problem of providers struggling to raise capital for new facilities, and could make some low-care providers worse off.

ACSA CEO Greg Mundy said the new funding package was premised on unrealistically low building costs.

And because a number of existing subsidies and residents’ fees would be changed or abolished, some low-care services could actually lose money, he said.

A second provider organisation, Aged Care Association Australia, said the package would not deliver quality, choice and affordability to clients.

‘As it stands now, this is not the package that the government has been promising to deliver to the industry and older Australians for the past year or two following the Hogan report,’ said ACAA chief executive Rod Young.