Federal Labor puts spotlight on aged care

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese says Labor’s plan is to fix the crisis in the aged care system by ensuring older Australians receive the aged care they deserve.

TO date aged care policy is the biggest difference between the Morrison Government and Anthony Albanese’s Opposition in their bids to win over voters in the federal election due to be announced any day.
Mr Albanese said at the heart of his Budget Reply was Labor’s plan to fix the crisis in aged care by ensuring older Australians received the aged care they deserved.

He said a Labor Government would put nurses back into nursing homes, require better food for residents, ensure more carers with time to care were available and support a pay rise for aged care workers.

“We will raise the standard of aged care across the board – by ensuring there are more carers, who have time to care,’’ he said.

His plan also requires more transparency about where taxpayer money goes in the aged care system.

The policy has been costed at $2.5b over four years but does not include the cost of a wage increase for workers.

The 2022-23 Budget delivered by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on March 29 shows the Government plans to provide $468.3m over five years from 2021‑22 to further implement the Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, to improve transparency and regulatory standards and continue ongoing reforms announced in the 2021‑22 Budget.

In 2022-23 the Government has allocated $76.3m and, $37.9m for 2023-24, $8.2m for 2024-25 and $3.5m for 2025-26.

The Government will also provide an additional $458.1m over five years from 2021‑22 to support older Australians in the aged care sector with managing the impacts of the Covid‑19 pandemic.

For 2022-23 the Government has allocated $229.4m, $12.3m for 2023-24, $3.4m for 2024-25 and $3.1m for 2025-26.

The Budget also included information the government was providing funding to improve access to palliative care for older Australians living in residential aged care facilities, supporting new approaches, such as ‘in reach’ services, that will improve palliative and end-of-life care.

This included $1.2 million for WA in 2022-23 and $1.3m for 2023-24.

Unions and organisations such as Dementia Australia acknowledged the strong commitment to aged care in Mr Albanese’s budget reply speech.

Dementia Australia chief executive officer Maree McCabe said during the federal election all parties must honour their commitments to fulfil the Royal Commission’s recommendations and keep dementia front of mind throughout the aged care reform process.

“We need to maintain the momentum and focus on aged care and dementia, especially in relation to workforce issues and the need for compulsory dementia education,’’ she said.

Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said Labor’s commitment to fully fund and support the HSU Fair Work Commission claim for a 25 per cent pay rise if it was elected was a breakthrough moment.

Mr Hayes said personal care workers, home care workers, recreational activities officers, catering, cleaning, administration and other aged care staff represented by the HSU were seeking an increase of between $5.40 and $7.20 per hour to take the average wage to $29 per hour.

He said some aged care workers were currently paid less than $22 an hour.

The Australian College of Nursing (ACN) welcomed Mr Albanese’s pledge to put nurses into residential aged care facilities on a 24-hour basis saying there is currently no mandatory or legislated requirement for a registered nurse on duty in Australian residential aged care facilities.

ACN chief executive officer Kylie Ward said older Australians were amongst the most vulnerable citizens and they deserved around-the-clock clinical care from a registered nurse.

“I do however want to remind all our political leaders that there is a shortage in the nursing workforce,’’ she said.

“It is one thing to mandate a registered nurse to be on duty 24/7 in an aged care facility, but there must be the trained and qualified registered nurses available to provide care.’’

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) urged the Opposition leader to have general practice front of mind when considering the future of aged care.

RACGP president Karen Price said when most people thought of the aged care system, their mind turned to caring for people in residential aged care facilities.

Dr Price said this was of critical importance and GPs across the country played a key role in providing services to residents of aged care facilities.

“However, it is a timely reminder that the majority of aged care services are actually provided by GPs in the community, where GPs keep these people healthier and living at home longer,’’ she said.