Putting The Care Back Into Aged Care
Written by: Canny Accounting
The recently handed down Federal Budget for 2021-22 contains proposals for tax relief in several areas, including one that is close to many people’s hearts – aged care. The Australian Government will deliver $17.7 billion to the aged care sector over five years, focusing on effective home care, sustainability, quality, and the safety of residential care. So we wanted to go into detail on how it’s planned to put the care back into Aged Care.
The crisis in aged care, specifically in residential care facilities, has been the spotlight of the news for several years now, and the recent Royal Commission has addressed some very disturbing evidence and made significant recommendations. The Final Report – List of Recommendations (Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, 1 March 2021) lists recommendations for improving home care and residential care.
Aged care is something that concerns not only the elderly but also their children as well as those of loving grandchildren. Regardless of financial status, it is something that we are all likely to have to consider at some time in the future, and the greater funding in the short term the more supportive and accessible services will be in the long term. The availability, accessibility, security and safety of aged care is something that no one can afford to ignore.
The ‘Home Care’ Financial Plan
- Eighty new home care packages, at a cost of $6.5 billion, will be released over the next two years, bringing the total number of packages up from 60,000 in 2015 to 275,000 by 2023.
Home care is an important choice for the elderly as it allows them to retain dignity and independence in their own homes. As well, as allowing them to be able to choose from a wide range of supports and services.
Currently, there are significant waiting lists for home care packages across Australia. Shortly before the release of the Royal Commission’s final report, it was estimated that there were over 100,000 elderly people waiting for packages and that the average wait time for those requiring high levels of in-home care was 28 months. This was described as a ‘critical failure’ and ‘cruel and discriminatory’ in the Commission’s interim report.
- For designing and planning for a new and more effective in-home care program, $10.8 million has been allocated.
One of the Royal Commission’s recommendations is for the implementation of a category providing assistive technology and home modifications, to increase independence ad the safety of living at home for the elderly, and generally assisting with daily living tasks.
- The Commission’s recommendation of providing care finders to support the navigation of the aged care system is being addressed by allocating $272.5 million for this service.
- For an estimated 1.6 million unpaid family members caring for the elderly at home, $798.3 million will be allocated, and this amount will also contribute to additional respite services.
The ‘Residential Care’ Financial Information
- The budget contribution to improved daily living conditions will be $100.00 per day per resident on top of the daily basic fee, to support the delivery of better care and services. This will occur from 1 July 2021.
The daily fee will be contingent on providers monitoring and reporting on daily services such as food, nutrition, linen and cleaning.
- An estimated 204,000 people live in residential aged care each year, and $3.9 billion has been allocated over the next four years to increase front-line care.
Some of the ways the budget allocation will assist residential care improvements include expanding the role of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in addressing failures in care, improving access to primary care services ad medication management, and greater support for dementia care. In addition, increased care time for residents, including 40 minutes of care from a registered nurse and increased time for a registered nurse on the premises, will be funded.
Safety in residential care facilities has been a frequent topic in the media spotlight and was a strong focus of the Royal Commission. An allocation of $231.9 million will enable additional site audits – an increase from 600 currently to 1500 in the next year alone. Additional measures will include regulation of the use o restraints and giving specialist dementia care training to providers.
‘Frontline Focus’ Financial Goals
- A budget allocation of $9.8 million will be used for recruiting, upskilling, and training aged care workers. This will include a national campaign to raise awareness of employment and career opportunities across the sector.
Improvement of the quality of the current aged care workforce was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission’s final report. Funding will support improvements in quality, safe and culturally sensitive care tailored to specific patient needs.
Research has found that recruiting and retaining skilled and experienced workers across the aged care sector has been an ongoing challenge, resulting in gaps in workforce capacity and capability – and elderly patients are the ones who ultimately suffer.
A critical focus of budget funding for both home and residential care will be to increase the skills and knowledge of aged care workers. While the industry is regulated through legislation and audits, the care and support workers are, at the end of the day the people responsible for care on a daily and hourly basis. The front-line workers and their compassion and understanding are vital for the health, safety and well-being of every elderly person being cared for by others. Funding will focus strongly on registered nurses and incentives to attract and retain them in the aged care sector.
Dementia care is challenging as it can involve dealing with severe psychological, emotional and behavioural issues in patients, and specialist training is a viable use of budget allocation. The budget will also increase funding for the Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and the Severe Behaviour Response Teams.
Screening of aged care workers is an important part of the recruitment process, particularly in residential care. Funding will be used to establish, develop and maintain a single register of workers who have been cleared and excluded during the screening process, across all sectors.
While the aged care sector component of the 2021-22 Federal Budget won’t mean instant financial gains or current ‘cash in the pocket’ for all Australians, in the longer term it will support the effectiveness and increased safety and security of a sector to which the majority of us will depend on at some time in the future.
Canny Group + Expert Financial Advice
It’s never an easy time when a loved one has to enter the aged care system as it puts all of the worries at the forefront of your mind and leaves you asking questions like “Are they going to be taken care of?” With the new budget announcements specifically for Aged Care, you can rest assured that this highly delicate and important part of life is heading in the right direction. Knowing and having peace of mind that your loved ones are in the best hands, with the most skilled individuals who dedicate their working life to looking after those that can no longer live alone and independently.
Get in touch with us to find out how we can help you when it comes to the process of planning for Aged Care, both our Accounting and Advisory teams are here to help, listen and prepare you for the road ahead.