In the Federal Budget released on May 3 there was $63.3 billion allocated for assistance to the aged, but there was little detail about where that money comes from and how it will be spent.
Starts at 60 sat down with assistant minister for Health and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt to uncover the finer points of the budget affecting the over-60s community.
“Any new expenditure has been used out of savings in certain areas and directed into areas of growth and need,” the minister says.
Wyatt acknowledges that it is important that the number of Australians requiring residential care are able to receive that care in their own home should they wish it.
“Moving towards a consumer-directed care model is a way in which they will have a greater say in how they want to be looked after, where they want to be as opposed to in the past we [the Government] has catered to the [health care] providers,” Wyatt says, going on to say that he has been pleased by aged care providers because they are talking about the way in which they will accommodate their patients in the future based on the individual choices of that patient.
Consumer-directed care continues to be a topic of discussion and will impact upon aged care, mental health and disability sectors.
The Federal Government aged care reform package including funding to embed ongoing consumer-directed care pilot programs into mainstream aged care program delivery. Launched in 2010 and extended in 2011, this approach to aged care aims to give older people greater control of their lives by allowing them to have a greater say in and more control over the design and delivery of the community care services they receive.
However, according to Aged Care Insite the existing home care packages afforded to people wanting to remain at home but still needing assistance are just not intensive enough for those who require more than a few hours of help each week.
The Aged Care Financing Authority shows that across Australia the greatest demand for support services is in the Level 4 category, where there is the greatest number of hours of support for someone requiring care at home. Yet, even Level 4 is not meeting the needs of some consumers and therefore more than Level 4 assistance (like levels 5, 6, 7 and even 8) are necessary to ensure more service users and their family carers are being supported to stay at home if that is their wish.
Why then would payments to aged care providers be slashed by $1.2 billion over four years?
This move is seen as an attempt to curb the skyrocketing costs of nursing home residents with complex needs.
“The Government will achieve efficiencies of $1.2 billion over four years through changes to the scoring matrix of the Aged Care Funding Instrument that determines the level of funding paid to aged-care providers,’’ the budget papers say.
The cuts to funding will be offset by $53.3 million in transitional assistance and a $137 million funding boost for My Aged Care, the Government’s frontline web portal for dealing with aged-care residents and their families.
Health minister Sussan Ley says the Government “will continue to deliver consumer-centred aged-care services with reforms that will improve access in rural and remote locations, as well as $136.6 million to ensure the My Aged Care website can meet rapidly growing demand”.