Money for aged care has gone out the window with the bushfires and NDIS… and is it time for the Royal Commission to take a new approach?

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The other major news to emerge from the break is the bushfire crisis – and what it will mean for cash for the sector.

The Federal Government has pledged $2 billion over two years for a bushfire recovery fund – a figure that could rise significantly as the full extent of the damage caused by this year’s bushfire season emerges.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison (pictured above) says he is willing to sacrifice the country’s $5.6 billion surplus.

“The surplus is of no focus for me,” he said. “What matters to me is the human cost and meeting whatever cost we need to meet.”

This is welcome news for the many Australians affected by the fires – but we now have 50% of aged care homes now operating a loss according to the latest data from StewartBrown.

That’s without counting the 112,000 older people still waiting 12-plus months for a home care package.

Add to this the news this week that David Tune – who led the 2017 Aged Care Legislated Review – has concluded his independent review of the NDIS’s legislation, making 29 recommendations to cut waiting times and red tape.

The NDIS already costs $22 billion a year to run – guaranteeing shorter wait times will surely hit the Government’s hip pocket harder.

Remember, the tax collection through agriculture, tourism and small business will also be hit.

It all leaves little in the bank for aged care – even the $1.3 billion in emergency funds that Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has been campaigning for in recent months.

Neglect? No

At the same time, towards the end of 2019, we saw aged care CEOs actively coming out to defend the sector and reject the Interim Report’s conclusion that the system is one of neglect.

The label grabs headlines: it is also confrontational.

Is it time – in this new era of general community distress – for a change of tack from the Royal Commission?

Is it still in the best interests of the community for the Commission to be seen to be attacking the system that looks after (cares for) our mums and dads?

Could it further damage both the sector and the Royal Commission’s credibility?

The inflammatory tone of the Interim Report was enough to make national headlines – but will it drive the conversation – and the need for funding – forward?

As discussed in my final newsletter last year, aged care is now in the public conscience – however, it has yet to be leveraged into a real campaign for reform.

Such a turnaround is not impossible.

Let’s not forget, it was only six months ago that the volunteer fire service in Victoria was under attack.

Premier Daniel Andrews’ Labor Government saw a controversial bill pass in June 2019 to change its Country Fire Authority (CFA) into a volunteer-only service after pushing for four years to increase the number of professional firefighters in the CFA – ensuring they become a paid and unionised service.

Now its volunteer firefighters are being hailed as heroes – and the money is rushing in.

A different situation for aged care – but the message is clear.

There is currently no funding for aged care – and it is sorely needed.

Will it take more than words to galvanise the Government into action?

Main image credit: IRT.