Australia has a deep rooted problem of ageism. It's apparent in all aspects of our lives and it's to the detriment of all of us. We live in a society where those over the age of 65 are often invisible and overlooked almost everywhere they go. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the overall lack of federal funding and services for older people.
This has been the case for decades and it's taken 28 major reviews and inquiries over 18 years, along with the most recent Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety for this country to have the strength of conviction to finally do something about it.
After several years of funding cuts by a series of governments more concerned about balancing a budget than the wellbeing and care of older Australians the Morrison government this week announced a record funding increase of $17.7 billion over the next four years.
This is a significant step in the right direction and I welcome all the help we can get to ensure the 1.3 million Australians accessing aged care services receive the level and quality of care they deserve.
This so called "record spending" on aged care however falls short of the recommended $10 billion a year needed to fix the state of aged care in Australia. Economic journalist Ross Gittins aptly dubbed this budget on Tuesday evening the "couldabeen budget", lamenting that Morrison has "settled for spending an extra $3.5 billion a year, a major patch-up at best." What a depressing but accurate assessment.
Where is our social conscience? Anyone who has an elderly loved one receiving or in need of receiving aged care and unable to access it, or any of our country's 360,000 aged care employees know all too well what's at stake. We have to get this right.
Despite the total investment in aged care falling short by almost half what was recommended by the Royal Commission, there is still reason to hope it will put us on the path towards transforming aged care for the benefit of all Australians.
I welcome the additional 80,000 home care packages over the next two years. Will this be enough though to reduce the almost 100,000 people waiting for a package or those who currently have a package that is lower than their assessed need to get the right package? No, it will not. Department of Health figures show almost 30,000 people have died in the past two years waiting for a home care package.
Australia's ageing population is growing rapidly. More than 4.1 million Australians, or 16 per cent of the population, are currently aged over 65.
Australia's ageing population is growing rapidly. More than 4.1 million Australians, or 16 per cent of the population, are currently aged over 65. By 2057, this will rise to 8.8 million, or 22 per cent of the population. Approximately 500 Australians are turning 80 each week, the average age for entry into home care. By 2027, this figure will be 1500 a week.
I also welcome the workforce support measures outlined, including the 33,000 training places for personal carers and a new Indigenous workforce. What the budget has glossed over however is how we are going to fill these training places. How are we planning to make working in aged care a more desirable profession? Funding more training places will be pointless without also addressing this significant issue in a meaningful way.
Maintaining and growing a viable workforce is one of the biggest challenges faced by aged care, particularly in regional and rural locations. An additional 78,000 aged care employees are needed in the next 10 years to meet the care needs of the country's growing ageing population. Finding the right people with the right caring attitude and providing them with appropriate training is a constant battle.
I was also encouraged to see measures in the budget to support a single integrated assessment workforce for all types of aged care (home care, respite care and residential aged care). The current system is siloed, complex and difficult for consumers to navigate and my hope is that this change will help make the system easier to enter, easier to navigate and more accessible.
With this budget the Morrison government has put forward a respectable response to 126 of the 148 recommendations made by the Royal Commission - despite some shortcomings. No strategy however is worth anything unless it is executed and executed well.
So here we are at the starting line to change the course of how we may all eventually live out our days, should we be so lucky to live a long life. This opportunity should not be taken for granted. Never before have we had a more defined course for improvement of the aged care system and how we choose to effect this change will not only impact the lives of our grandparents and parents in care right now, but also our own lives and those of our children and beyond.
- Patrick Reid is IRT Group CEO