Following the Royal Commission Report on Australia’s Aged Care System, the Australia Government have announced numerous reforms to tackle the expansive industry challenges. Along with the increasing numbers of citizens approaching their retirement years, the government needs to address several aspects of the sector including those elderly Australians receiving care, family members involved in caring for the elderly, and those delivering professional care.
The recent announcement regarding the 2021-2022 Federal Budget aims to start a generational change and calls for record investment in the aged care industry. Over five years, it will invest $250 million in 2020–21, $2.1 billion in 2021–22, $4.4 billion in 2022–23, $5.5 billion in 2023–24 and $5.5 billion in 2024–25, for a total of $17.7 billion. This budget aligns with a five-pillar reform plan to support the aged care sector, a five-year plan for genuine change and deliver greater respect, care and dignity for our older Australians.
What is the five-pillar aged care reform?
With the federal government sharing their response to the royal commission’s final report and promising their commitment, specific critical areas of the aged care reform and the new funding that will shape and enable change were also presented. Older Australians’ needs and preferences are at the front and center of these reforms and partner with the aged care sector to create a better system for the aged care providers and the workforce.
With self-managed care and home care packages (over 99,100 people were in-home care packages in 2019) becoming more popular, the Australian Government recognises that Australians want to remain independent, choosing to live at home and close to their family and connected to their community.
The government is allocating a $7.5 billion budget to provide:
- A $6.5 billion budget for an additional 80,000 Home Care Packages
- A new support at home program will be introduced with a $10.8 million budget. It will support the new program design, which will offer better support to older Australians as their needs change, including people living with dementia and people with complex needs who prefer to stay at home.
- $798.3 million investment increases support for informal and family carers, particularly for those caring for people living with dementia.
- Support older Australians and ensure that they find the aged care services they need
- Support increase compliance checks of Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission
- Programs to ensure that older Australians receive full value for money
Residential aged care services and sustainability
As the ageing population increases, the demands of aged care services are growing and provide for older Australians continuously. As part of creating a better system for providers, there will be new compliance regulations, monitoring and intervention to build financial sustainability, capability and resilience.
A new funding model will be introduced for 240,000 people using residential aged care and 67,000 people using respite aged care each year. This model aims to improve the quality of care they receive.
A new government-mandated essential daily fee supplement of $10 per resident per day will give immediate support with provider reports on daily record services, such as food, nutrition, linen and cleaning. As well as an additional 200 minutes per day, each resident should be provided by carers, including 40 minutes of registered nurse time.
Workforce assessment will also be required to improve the experience of older Australians’ in residential care. There will be an improved reporting method for providers, such as star ratings for reviews, giving out monthly care statements for residents’ care, changes or events, and monitoring care time and staffing minutes to increase transparency. This will be introduced to help retired Australians make easier comparisons of services and improve their choice of care.
The government will also invest $49.1 million to install an independent process to gain advice on aged care pricing issues.
Residential aged care quality and safety
The Aged Care Reform Plan aims to strengthen the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to protect senior Australians further. The Australian government has promised to invest a $231.9 million budget to:
- enable the commission to do 1,500 more site audits
- enforce regulation of physical and chemical restraint use
- expand the Serious Incident Response Scheme into home care
- increase funding for the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and the Severe Behaviour Response Teams
- Improve palliative care by giving specialists dementia training to aged care providers.
Providers will need to report to a star rating system to improve aged care services’ quality and to inform older Australians and their families of the services they provide.
The government will improve primary care support between aged care and health care systems with $365.7 million to:
- Increase Aged Care Access Incentive and increase GP face-to-face care
- expand the Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care Pilot
- better support Primary Health Networks (PHNs) telehealth services and help health practitioners to care for vulnerable patients
- produce better data and evidence for workforce planning
- Improve medication management in residential care.
Aged Care Sector Workforce
The Australian government is growing the home care workforce by 18,000 new personal care workers. $135.6 million will provide additional financial support and incentives for registered nurses.
To grow and upskill the workforce, the government will invest to:
- Yearly increase of new personal carers in the workplace
- Improve training for dementia care and minimising restraint
- Funding of 33,800 training places more personal care workers to gain a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing)
- Single assessment for carers to ensure quality and consistency in delivering care
A $25.1 million budget will help expand the Rural Locum Assistance Program, ensure continuity of clinical care and leadership, and increase a surge workforce in rural and regional areas.
A $26.7 million investment will create a new consumer-focused, value-based Aged Care Act that will support these generational reforms. The new Act will:
- Legislate the five pillars that the government has outlined, including home care, quality and safety, residential aged care services and sustainability, workforce and governance
- Establish provisions for eligibility for care, funding arrangements and regulatory powers
- Support greater choice and control for older Australians over the care and services they receive.
- More robust provider and worker regulation provisions in the Act will protect senior Australians from mistreatment, neglect and harm, and
- Inclusion of grant programs can be tailored to specific needs in the aged care sector, including research to drive innovation and programs to address areas with limited services or low client numbers once the Act is developed.
$13.4 million will be used to create a local network of Department of Health aged care staff. This will enable the government to focus on improving older Australians’ local experience of aged care services. These include: analysing local needs, supporting workforce planning; building the capacity and capability of providers; monitoring the effectiveness of the new care finders and single assessment workforce; and supporting best-practice and innovation.
Greater steps towards excellent care
The aged care sector has welcomed these commitments from the Australian government to address the long over-due issues of the industry. But providers call for more long-term plans that aim to continue these reforms for the generations to come. The government’s promise for a better system is only real as the investment and commitment that is made.
As part of Australia’s aged care technology system, CareVision is ready to partner with the government and providers by promoting technology advancements to improve older Australians’ industry and care experience.