Treasurer Josh Frydenberg released the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook on Monday, calling the figures as the best bottom line the country has seen since the John Howard era.
But what does the report mean for older Australians and which figures should Starts at 60 readers pay particular attention to?
The biggest forecast to come out of the MYEFO is the prediction that the budget will return to surplus in 2019-20, with estimates it will rise to a surplus of $30 billion over the next four years, however the report also contained important information regarding additional funding for aged care.
Older Australians in receipt of care in their own home or those considering whether a residential aged care facility may be right for them or a loved one, may be most interested by the inclusion of an additional half a billion dollars for aged care.
On Sunday, Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, alongside Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt, announced a $552.9 million funding package, which includes the release of 10,000 high-level home care packages within weeks, worth around $287 million.
The newly announced funding was included in Monday’s fiscal report and the new packages are set to be available within weeks, split evenly across level three and level four packages.
“Total spending on aged care is expected to reach a record $23.5 billion in 2021-22,” Frydenberg said. “This includes bringing forward the release of 10,000 home care packages to connect more older Australians with high-level support and providing additional support to Australians in residential aged care in regional, rural and remote areas and those at risk of homelessness.
“The government is also establishing a new National Elder Abuse Hotline to provide a point of access to state and territory based services for older people and their families seeking to address elder abuse.”
The Morrison government will also attempt to ease the cost of living for 70,000 older Australians by reducing the daily maximum fees payable by up to $400 per year for level one packages, $200 a year for level two packages and $100 a year for a level three packages.
Frydenberg added: “We are also investing more in providers that support older Australians living in rural and remote areas and people who have been affected by homelessness”.
The MYEFO was welcomed by COTA (Council on the Ageing) on Monday, with Chief Executive Ian Yates saying that the additional care home packages would enable more older Australians to remain in their own homes for longer.
“The 10,000 new Level 3 and Level 4 packages are only one third of the urgent increase of 30,000 high level home care packages COTA called for in September,” Yates said. “This a good step, a welcome step, but one that will still leave too many older Australians that the government has itself assessed as in need of high level care at home, without that care.
“We really need to reduce the waiting list so that no one waits more than three months for care. The reality is that when someone needs high-level support at home they can’t afford to wait. The risk to them and the burden on family is unacceptable, as is forcing people into residential care prematurely.”
However, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) said the $552.9 million was “too little, too late” for vulnerable nursing home residents who aren’t receiving the care they need.
ANMF Federal Secretary Annie Butler said: “Unfortunately for vulnerable nursing home residents and their families, the Government refuses to address, or quite frankly even acknowledge, the urgent need for mandated minimum staffing levels in all nursing homes, which would ensure best practice care.
“With over 127,000 elderly Australians still stuck on waiting lists for home care packages, this funding in the MYEFO is long-overdue, too little, too late. And it will do very little for nursing home residents who aren’t getting the care they need and deserve this Christmas. Older Australians are entitled to much better than this.”
While many Starts at 60 readers agreed that aged care is deserving of additional funding, many called on the Coalition to do more to help older Australians when it comes to divvying up the budget.
One reader raised the issue of the assets tests for pensioners, saying: “And the money they took away from pensioner when they changed the asset test? When your lot changed the asset test we lost about $5,000.”
Another said: “The average family is interested in the out-of-control power prices, the obvious petrol rip off, the increased cost of gap payments in private health insurance … not this sort of stuff … day-to-day issues are what’s of interest to the electorate.” One reader suggested: “Maybe he could give us pensioners a pay rise with all this new found wealth.”
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