It’s been some time since we provided an update on our strategic work aimed at improving the aged care system, and with the new federal Labor government now firmly ensconced it’s an appropriate time to take stock of where we are up to and to look at our strategic priorities from here.
Those who have been following PDCN’s work will know that we have several concerns about the functionality of the aged care system, especially when compared to the NDIS. The aged care scheme has little to no resourcing for assistive technology, the supports that people can receive are capped and participants can’t opt out of plan administration, even if they self-manage their funds. These are just a few of the more pressing problems.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety made 148 recommendations for the reform of the aged care system. Prior to the federal election, the Coalition government had been working with key stakeholders on some major changes which accorded with a few of the key recommendations, including, as we understand it, increased access to assistive technology supports.
Unfortunately, reform of the overall aged care scheme was not really canvassed during election platforming, beyond supports for people living in residential aged care facilities. While we suspect that the Coalition had been working on wider changes to the aged care system as a whole, there was no revelation of what these changes would be, and now with a change of federal government we have essentially gone back to the drawing board.
We know that the Labor Government has committed to increasing rates of pay for aged care workers, greater spending accountability and 24-hour on-site registered nurses across residential care facilities. They have also canvassed plans to cap unreasonably high administration and management fees for aged care plans in response to a report from the Grattan Institute that an average of 25% of Home Care Package fees are spent on these services. We are aware that the federal government has an increased focus on supporting older people to live in their homes as long as possible, which is in line with the Royal Commission’s observations that a majority of older Australians want to have the option to age in place.
PDCN is part of two national campaigns – Disability Doesn’t Discriminate, which is lobbying to expand eligibility for the NDIS to include people aged 65 years and over, and Accessible Technology for All which calls on the federal government to establish a national assistive technology program to meet the needs of people with disability who are excluded from the NDIS.
More recently we have also joined a NSW collective of disability peak organisations, social service industry leaders and representatives from NSW Health to lobby at a federal level for increased parity in all supports for those who fall through the existing resourcing gaps. For instance, people who experience catastrophic injury over the age of 65 and are not otherwise covered by an insurance scheme.
While we acknowledge that many people who are currently on the NDIS will be able to remain on the scheme and retain access to uncapped disability-related supports and services, unless there is a major increase in aged care funding there will always be a group of people who acquire disabilities after the age of 65 with no prior connection to the NDIS, alongside of a small cohort of people with significant disability who were over 65 when the NDIS rolled in, who will require additional resourcing to access high-level disability supports. It is vitally important that government supports all people with disabilities to live equitable, happy and fulfilling lives within the community.
Over the next few months, we hope to gain a more comprehensive idea of what the Labor government is willing to commit to in terms of the Royal Commission recommendations and the proposed Support at Home Program. We will be looking to connect directly with relevant ministers to promote the interests of PDCN members, including those who are currently part of the aged care scheme and those who will require it in the future.
As always, we are keen to connect with PDCN members interested in collaborating with us as we advocate for change, be that through providing case studies for our written reports, volunteering to tell their stories in the media, or otherwise. If this is a topic that is particularly important for you, and you are keen to contribute to our work, please reach out to the PDCN policy team at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 02 9552 1606.