Aged carers demand system reform
Updated: 20:36, Wednesday April 11, 2012
Seniors, carers and nursing home operators have united to demand Labor deliver on its promise to overhaul the aged care system in the next federal budget.
Seniors, carers and nursing home operators have united to demand Labor deliver on its promise to overhaul the system in this term of government despite the tight fiscal environment.
The National Aged Care Alliance, representing 28 organisations, on Wednesday called on Labor to adopt the key recommendations of a Productivity Commission report released in 2011.
‘It is now 247 days and counting since the Productivity Commission proposals were released,’ Catholic Health Australia chief executive Martin Laverty told the National Press Club in Canberra.
‘Reform plans backed by unified support don’t come along all that often.
‘This opportunity must not be squandered.’
The commission suggested older Australians contribute up to $60,000 of the total cost of their aged care over their liftime and face ‘uncapped’ charges for nursing-home accommodation. A safety net would protect those who couldn’t afford to pay.
Mr Laverty says Labor could commit to reform without jeopardising its plan to return the budget to surplus.
‘In year one agreeing to implement aged care reform need not be a factor in whether or not this year’s budget reaches a surplus,’ he said, adding the commission’s recommendations could be rolled out over three years.
Mr Laverty says the government should start be focusing on two key areas.
First, it should scrap restrictions on the number of aged care packages that allow people to be looked after in their own home, he said.
Second, Labor needed to establish an independent commission to determine the actual cost of providing care ‘otherwise we’re operating in the dark’.
Council on the Aging chief executive Ian Yates agrees reform is long overdue.
He told the press club the former Howard government ‘faltered’ while the Rudd government was told what to do by the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission ‘but decided to refer aged care to the Productivity Commission’.
Its recommendations were now supported by the entire sector, the community and the opposition.
‘Quite simply there is no reason for government not to act in 2012 federal budget,’ Mr Yates said, adding if Labor dropped the ball it would face a ‘backlash’.
Seniors were prepared to pay more for better care, and would prefer Labor deliver reform rather than a surplus, he said.
Australian Nursing Federation national secretary Lee Thomas says doing nothing in the May budget is not an option for the government.
‘What we will see if the government chooses to do nothing is a system that may collapse,’ she told the press club.
‘We were promised aged care reform by Prime Minister Julia Gillard during the 2010 election campaign. Well we are still waiting for her to deliver.’
Ageing Minister Mark Butler on Wednesday refused to speculate on what might be in the budget but acknowledged seniors wanted more support to stay in their own home for as long as possible.
He suggested the rich would have to pay more in the future for care.
‘We certainly need to find better income streams for the system,’ Mr Butler told Sky News.
‘It’s about ensuring that people with capacity to pay (do) pay in an equitable and transparent way and the commonwealth government is able to support people who don’t have a capacity to pay.’
Mr Butler said aged care reform was a ‘long-term process but it’s one we are committed to starting as soon as possible’.
190812 20120411 AEST
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