The Morrison government today announced it will be rolling out an additional 6,105 home care packages in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, in a bid to protect elderly Australians who may otherwise have had to move into residential care.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed the news in a joint press conference with Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck on Wednesday afternoon. The extra 6,105 home care packages brings the total number of additional packages to over 50,000 since the 2018-19 Budget, at a cost of more than $3 billion.
“This is about ensuring that Australians, as they age, have greater choices, that families have greater choices,” the PM said. “We have many challenges in this country at the moment, but we will see our economy strengthen, we will see Australians kept safe whether it’s from COVID or the many other threats that this nation faces, and we will guarantee the essential services that Australians rely on.”
Following the announcement, the Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) issued a statement describing the new packages as a”welcome but small step forward” in terms of meeting demand, however still short of what is needed.
COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates says it’s vital to reduce the waiting times for home care packages, aiming for a maximum two-month wait time after assessment before older Australians can receive the level of care for which they have been assessed.
“The 6,100 additional Home Care Packages announced today will mean that more people than ever will receive home care, but it’s still unacceptable that people can wait for over a year for high care at home after they have been assessed as needing it,” Yates said. “We know that older Australians want to live at home as long as they can. The Government must support them by fully funding home care so they can avoid moving out of their local community and into residential care before it’s absolutely necessary.
“However, we still have a long way to go to ensure Australians receive proper care in a timely manner. Even with these additions, many people will be left waiting for more than 12 months before they can receive their high care, package.”
During Wednesday’s press conference – which was the prime minister’s first in a week – Morrison also touched upon the newly-imposed six-week lockdown in Melbourne, calling on Australians to band together as the state’s case numbers continue to rise.
He said: “Right now, that job is if you’re a Melburnian, is to tough it out and it will be tough, but know the rest of the country is with you. The rest of the country knows that the sacrifice that you’re going through right now is not just for you and your own family, but it’s for the broader Australian community.”
It was also confirmed on Wednesday that the Aged Care Royal Commission would extend its reporting period once again, by a further three and a half months, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The commission will now deliver its final report by February 26, 2021.
Yates added: “The Royal Commission is a critical opportunity to overhaul the way Australia delivers aged care. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to enact major reform and ensure high quality and appropriate aged care is properly funded for the first time so that it available to all on a timely and equitable basis – which it’s not now.”