When it comes to reforming the aged care sector in Australia, one industry expert has warned against taking too short-term a view on the issue, calling on the government to place greater importance on the policy area as the number of older Aussies continues to grow.
One of the biggest problems, according to Marcus Riley, Chief Executive Officer of BallyCara, is the lack of priority given to the aged care portfolio within Canberra, citing the “ridiculous turnover” of ministers in recent years and the narrow focus of government policy as contributing factors to the current situation, which has led to the announcement of a royal commission into the aged care sector.
The Positive Ageing Advocate exclusively told Starts at 60 that the rate at which the portfolio has been passed from minister to minister in recent years, before the appointment of current Minister Ken Wyatt in January 2017 – previously Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care – is “an indicator of the lack of importance the government is giving to this portfolio”.
“Prior to the current minister, the turnover of aged care ministers in consecutive federal governments was ridiculous really,” he said. “And there’s an indicator of the lack of priority that governments are giving to this portfolio.
“We still haven’t seen aged care as a minister within cabinet so again that’s an indicator of the lack of priority [and] lack of importance that’s being given to this important area of society.”
Riley added that the simple task of including the aged care ministry in the cabinet could help to improve the current aged care offering by creating a cohesive policy, integrating aged care with other areas of governance that have a direct impact on older Aussies and the services available to them such as the healthcare system and federal budget.
He added: “Some of those very tangible changes that the government could make today in terms of bringing the ministry into the cabinet, making it a more senior role within government and better recognising how other areas of government and policy relate to aged care, whether it’s the social side of things, obviously economic and financial, the health aspect.
“All these key areas absolutely influence what’s happening in aged care. You could argue at the moment there’s a lack of coherent policy which brings all those elements together to provide the best possible aged care system.”
Brisbane-based Riley went on to explain that it is particularly vital for the government to take a longer term approach as Baby Boomers begin to enter their 80s, as the number of elderly Australians requiring care packages and assistance is set to grow rapidly, reaching 8.8 million by 2057 and accounting for 22 per cent of the entire population.
“The spotlight on aged care is greater than it has ever been before,” he said. “But what is needed beyond that is a focus on ageing more broadly. I still think that there’s a lack of attention and a lack of awareness as to the ageing of our society.
“There needs to be that broader view and longer-term focus, within that obviously addressing the shocking circumstances that have been revealed in recent media coverage. We can’t lose sight of the longer term and the broader picture in addressing those unacceptable circumstances that we’ve seen recently.
“Until we have that conversation as a society and we have a policy from government, we’re going to see issues like the problems in aged care and other areas of society through that lack of focus on our ageing population.”