Budget to focus on funding more at-home care for elderly | Australia news
The biggest focus on aged care in six years looks to be the centrepiece of next week’s budget, with the government expected to distribute its $100bn spend across training, an increased in-home care focus and streamlined services.
After announcing a $20bn a year for five-year spend last year, the aged care minister, Ken Wyatt, ordered a series of reviews into the sector, combining waiting lists for in-home aged care into one national queue and redistributing in-home care options back to the customer, among other changes.
Now, those in the sector expect the 2018 Turnbull government to build on the foundation provided by the Gillard government’s Living Longer, Living Better plan.
While no confirmation is possible until Tuesday, the budget is expected to see big spending on expanding the in-home care package, helping to fund the 103,000 or so people on the waiting list.
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Of that, 60,000 people have been approved for a home care package but are yet to receive one, while the remainder have been approved for a higher care level than they are currently receiving.
Home care packages are ranked from about $8,000 a year for basic needs up to a subsidy of $49,500 a year for those needing the highest care level.
The policy is designed to keep people living in their own homes for as long as possible. Currently demand is so high, those needing the highest level care packages can expect to wait more than a year for funding.
The budget looks to begin addressing that, along with providing more training places and initiatives to support the development of the workforce, with more than 1m jobs expected to be needed in the sector by 2050, as Australia grapples with its ageing population. The sector currently employs 360,000 people.
Ian Yates, head of the Council on the Ageing, which has been consulting with the government on the sector’s needs, said he expected the aged care portion of the budget to be a “good news story”.
But he also cautioned that more needed to be done, and both major parties needed to do more to prepare.
“There are significant challenges in aged care and its financial sustainability into the long term,” he said. “It is a big issue and one that both the Coalition and Labor have to work out how they are going to address.”
Other smaller but long-called-for measures expected to be included in the budget, involve improvements to how aged care measures can be accessed, with plans to simplify the website and the call centre believed to be one of the smaller budget line items.
Aged care is one of the few policy areas to receive bipartisanship. Yates said the consultation process had followed along those lines, and he hoped, as Australia’s population continued to age, the focus would remain on their care, both physical and emotional.
“There is a lot of work to be done,” Yates said. “I guess you could say the settings are there to take the next big step, and I hope that is what we see happen on Tuesday.”