On 11 May 2021, the Morrison Government announced Australia’s health budget and spending over the next four years. In response to the recommendations put forth by the aged care royal commission, the government has allocated a record of $17.7 billion into the aged care budget in the coming years.
The aged care royal commission, established in 2018, proposed 148 recommendations in their final report to deliver tremendous respect, care and dignity for older Australians. Some of its recommendations include better aged care workforce planning, improving safety and quality of aged care services. As well as boosting home care efforts.
Out of all 148 recommendations, the government has accepted and considered 142 of them in the aged care budget. Let us now take a look at how the government will allocate the aged care budget!
Delivering quality residential care
The aged care royal commission pushed for better quality residential care. In response, the government has allocated a sum of money to improve the standards of care in aged care facilities.
The Government is providing $7.8 billion to improve the quality, safety and sustainability of aged care services. A total of $942 million of new funding will be allocated to improving the quality and safety of aged care services over the next four years. A breakdown of some of this aged care budget include:
- $7 million will be spent on primary and other healthcare needs of the aged care sector. Further, it will also be used to support digital and face-to-face services.
- $301.3 million will primarily be focused on addressing the inadequacy of the COVID-19 response for the aged care sector.
- $200.1 million will be used to help seniors and their families make better decisions on aged care providers. This includes a new star rating system which will help create a more transparent comparison between different aged care organisations.
Additionally, there will also be a more effective funding model for residential aged care. With this new funding model, the government will ensure better delivery of care and provide more support and confidence for providers. For instance, the government is increasing its residential care funding by $10 per resident per day from 1 July 2021.
To improve the quality of care, a part of the plan is to increase the time nurses spend with each resident. The government has mandated residential aged care organisations to ensure nurses spend an average of 200 minutes with each resident per day from 1 October 2023.
Supporting older Australians to stay at home for longer
Another part of the aged care budget is to provide support for home care. With an increasing demand for aged care services, the government aims to lower the dependency on residential aged care services. To do so, they are investing in home care services.
This also comes after the aged care royal commission called for the need for care for informal carers. With the aged care sector understaffed, informal carers have become crucial healthcare resources.
Thus, older Australians are encouraged to remain at home longer with more support in home care packages and respite for informal and family caregivers. The government is allocating $6.5 billion out of the aged care budget to provide 80,000 more home care packages, a further add on to the previous significant investments.
The government recognises the more skilled informal carers are, the better the outcome of care. Thus, they are allocating $798.3 million for carers to access the services and support they need.
Aside from support on respite, the aged care budget will also allow for grants and support for informal carers to be equipped with the skills they need to support their older loved ones. For instance, informal carers can join classes to be better equipped with techniques to care for people with dementia.
Strengthening aged care quality, safety and governance
Another recommendation from the aged care royal commission is for a new act to replace the Aged Care Act 1997. This new act should ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of people receiving aged care services. It should also focus on continuous improvement in the sector; and recognise the importance of relationships between the elderly and their family.
The government has also allocated part of the aged care budget to promise a more independent and accountable system. A total of $21.1 million will be utilised to set up arrangements that provide greater independence of the aged care system. One such initiative is to establish an independent pricing authority to oversee the funding of the sector.
Also, new reforms will be introduced. These reforms include a new age care act as recommended by the aged care royal commission. While it has not been decided what the new act will be and what it will comprise of; the act will ensure consumers are at the centre of the aged care system.
Better connecting older Australians with aged care
One of the critical loopholes in the aged care system is that older Australians are distanced from the system. As such, the government wants to ensure the aged care budget will help bring older Australians closer to aged care; regardless of their social class, race, sexuality, background or where they live.
In the effort to make aged care accessible for all, the government is putting in $630.2 million to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and special needs groups. They are also helping people living in regional, rural and remote areas get access to aged care services.
This portion of the aged care budget will be used to upgrade aged care infrastructures in those areas. As well as training the local workforce to be better equipped with aged care knowledge and skills.
Further, they will also be using this fund to educate the elderly on aged care services and grants available in the area. The government will invest $200.1 million from the aged care budget to empower older Australians to make more sound and informed decisions on aged care.
One such initiative is the new star rating system on the MyAgedCare website. This will enable consumers to know how aged care providers are faring.
With a whopping $17.7 billion investment into the aged care budget, the Australian government is determined to revamp and improve the aged care system with the recommendations from the aged care royal commission.
While the government did not accept all of the 148 recommendations, it is commendable that they have listened and have accepted 142 of them. This huge aged care budget includes a lot of initiatives and plans not included in this article. Head down to the Department of Health’s website to learn more about the budget allocation!