Aged care reform plan released

MORE than $100 million will be given to regional Australia as part of the Federal Government's $3.7 billion reform of the aged care sector.

Eights months after the Productivity Commission released a damning report on the nation's aged care sector, the government released its plan for reform on Friday.

The package includes $1.9 billion for improved access to aged care services, $1.2 billion to strengthen the dire situation in the sector's workforce and more than $260 million to deal with dementia.

Funding has been promised over the next five years, when the government will review the system with a mind to improving it if needed for the following five years.

While Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the package was not a budget measure, figures for the package show the government plans some $100 million in savings in the next financial year and $1.5 billion in savings over five years to justify the spend.

"There are huge problems (with the current system), those problems include there are not enough bundled care packages for those who want to live independently in their own home," she said.

"Last year 24,000 applications were received for community care packages, less than 2000 were provided.

"The current system is unfair, aged pensioners are subsidising the accommodation and care packages of those who earn many, many times what they do.

"Families can't get the information they need to make difficult choices.

"Most disturbingly of all, 40 per cent of older Australians are forced into emergency fire sales of their homes in order to pay for their care.

"More people will get to keep their home and more people will get to stay in their home."

Numerous aged care groups, including Aged and Community Services Australia, welcomed the government reform package, but some were still waiting for more detail.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler said the government had taken on the recommendations of the Productivity Commission and the views of stakeholders.

"Most importantly we've listened intently to the views of older Australians themselves," he said.

"We will create a new home support program that will consolidate the existing home and community care program, respite program and a number of others, and give it 6% real growth in funding every year.

"All new home care packages eventually must be consumer directed - that is built around the needs of the individual themselves, rather the needs of the provider."

The package promises some $20 million to ensure "the sustainability of aged care services in regional, rural and remote areas" from July 1.

There will be more home care packages for older people who want to stay in their own homes longer, with an increase from 59,876 to 99,669 packages when the system becomes means-tested on July 1, 2014.

The means test will not include the family home, but may include other assets.

Mr Butler said the means-tested system would also include a capped care payments for pensioners, with nobody paying more than $25,000 a year for care, and no more than $60,000 over a lifetime.

The Package:

  • Residential aged care places to increase from 191,522 to 221,103
  • A $1.2 billion fund to improve the aged care workforce
  • A 'My Aged Care' website for people to compare aged care services
  • More choice for families to pay for care by bond or on-going payments
  • A cooling-off period to give families time to decide how to pay for care

Topics:  aged care nursing home

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