The Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians final report was released on Monday 8 August 2011. So after about 6 months of community consultations and after receiving over 400 submissions in response to the draft report, how did the final report differ from the draft? While the final report looks very similar to the draft, it does provide more detail and some important tweaks to the original recommendations. And while the report has been welcomed by the majority of the aged care industry, Australian Nursing Federation (ANF), United Voice and Bupa Care Services (BCS) have both criticised some aspects of the report.
ANF and United Voice felt that despite their submissions, highlighting the need for better wages for carers and nurses working in the aged care sector, the Commission’s recommendations for a timeframe of three to five years for a new statutory body to examine wages were not good enough.
BCS, on the other hand, has questioned the PC’s recommendation that government, rather than providers, take control of bonds, stating that the current bond system works well, and, based on its research, 80% of older Australians would prefer their aged care provider to receive the bonds rather than government.
While some criticism is to be expected, there has been an overwhelming support for the proposal that older Australians choose how they would like to pay for care by offering daily, weekly or monthly accommodation charges as well as the option of a bond.
Removing restrictions on residential and care packages, moving from a residential-based to a community-based system with most support and care provided in the home, has also been widely welcomed.
Older Australians will also be required to pay 25% (capped at $60,000) towards their cost of care, with the individual’s wealth subject to a means test. Should an older person wish to sell their home to fund their aged care accommodation, they can retain their pension through a proposed Australian Age Pensioners Savings Account. A safety net for those who cannot afford to pay would also be available.
The important thing to remember is that, while the aged care sector would like to see these changes implemented as soon as possible, we have to wait for the government to decide which recommendations (if any!) they decide to put into practice.
For aged care providers this means keeping the pressure on government to deliver on their election promise of focusing on aged care reform in its second term of government.