Aged care peaks call on Government to fund $1.5 billion rescue package over next six months – or risk sector collapse

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A group of seven major organisations has appealed to the Government to provide an extra $1.495 billion injection or face more providers going to the wall by June – just six weeks away.

The groups – Aged & Community Services Australia, the Aged Care Guild, Anglicare Australia, Baptistcare Australia, Catholic Health Australia, Leading Age Services Australia and UnitingCare Australia – say this will work out as:

  • $250 million-plus for home care (182 days at $10 per day for up to 150,000 people)
  • $546 million for residential care (182 days at $15 per day for 200,000 people)
  • $500 million pool of funds for information technology measures and training to reduce social isolation and loneliness
  • Plus, the workforce fund, which will depend on the number of workers who need to isolate.

LASA cited the latest StewartBrown figures, which put the number of aged care homes operating at a loss at 56% – rising to 70% in regional and remote areas – to demonstrate the need for the funding boost.

LASA’s Manager of Policy and Advocacy, Tim Hicks tells us: “Most of the support announced so far has been focused on responding to an outbreak. Some funding has been made available for staff retention, but too little has been done to cover the broader costs of stronger infection controls and services to address increased social isolation.”

“Many services are also facing reduced revenue as people turn down community care and choose not to enter residential care.”

“Providers are asking for a fair investment from the Government to help them continue to deliver outstanding services to the older people in their care. It is a small price to pay compared to broader sacrifices that we have already made as a community.”

LASA says it is also working with the other peaks on an additional COVID-19 response package which will be presented to the Government – but so far, despite detailed requests to the Government, there has been no direct response to the rescue package.

“A long-term funding resolution is required,” Tim concedes.

This is the question: should the peaks be asking for more than just money?

The StewartBrown figures make it clear that the sector can’t keep operating at a loss – and structural change is required.

During the Royal Commission’s hearings, the Commissioners have consistently delivered the same message: fundamental reform is required but give us a plan.

There is no doubt that this $1.5 billion boost is sorely needed – homes still need to operate and staff must be paid.

However, what is also required is a plan to ensure the long-term sustainability of the sector.

If the sector wants to be viable in 12 months’ time, what needs to happen in the next three, six and nine months to make that happen?

Should the peaks also be coming forward to Government to say they are prepared to throw out the current system – and consolidate the number of operators in Australia – so that providers can go to the market and charge a fair price for their services?

This would require almost all of the major aged care organisations to rearrange their business models – a painful exercise, but one that would benefit the sector – and Australia – in the long-term.

Who will be prepared to stand up and say it to the Government?

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