This Budget has been welcomed by provider peak bodies as
containing ‘no surprises’ for aged care. It gives the sector a rest
from major changes in an environment of long-term reform. Measures include the
continuation of home support services, development of an aged care workforce
strategy, and information and communications technology (ICT) improvements. The
measures do not involve significant new funding and should not require
Commonwealth Home Support Programme
The Budget includes a continuation of funding for the Commonwealth
Home Support Programme (CHSP), providing $5.5 billion for a further two
years to 30 June 2020. As described in Budget
Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 2017–18 this does not appear to be new
funding, as ‘Funding... has already been included in the forward estimates’.
The CHSP is an entry-level program that assists older people to remain at
home by providing services such as meals, community transport, personal care,
nursing, domestic assistance and respite. It commenced on 1 July 2015 and
replaced several programs, including Commonwealth Home and Community Care
(HACC). The budget measure extends
funding arrangements with CHSP providers and Regional Assessment Services (responsible
for determining eligibility for home support) from 1 July 2018. New conditions
will place a greater emphasis on ‘activities that support independence and
wellness and provide more choice for consumers’. Wellness and ‘reablement’
have been aims of the CHSP from the start, and the new conditions also reflect
the wider reform agenda of increasing consumer choice and control.
Notably, the measure appears to delay a merger of the CHSP
with the Home
Care Packages Program (which provides
higher-level assistance to remain at home). In the 2015–16 Budget,
the Government announced its intention to establish a ‘single integrated care
at home programme’ from July 2018, following consultation with the aged care
sector. The aim is to simplify
the aged care system for consumers and reduce ‘red tape’ for providers.
However, stakeholders have questioned the feasibility of the initial timeframe
for this reform. In responding to this
Budget, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) noted that ‘there is much
work to be done’ for a successful merger to occur.
Aged Care workforce
Funding of $1.9 million over two years from 1 July 2017 will
be used to establish an ‘industry-led’ taskforce which will develop a strategy
to improve and expand the aged care workforce. This complements a related budget
measure—Boosting the Local Care Workforce—which provides
$33 million to assist providers in rural, regional and outer suburban areas to
meet workforce demand in the disability and aged care sectors. Both measures
are budget-neutral as they will be paid for using existing Department of Health
and Department of Social Services resources.
It is intended that the aged care workforce taskforce will contribute
to addressing the predicted need for the workforce to grow from around 366,000
to 980,000 by 2050 in response to an ageing population.
The announcement has been applauded by provider and consumer peak bodies, which
have been frustrated by lack of government activity on developing an aged care
Improvements to ICT
There are two measures that relate to important ICT platforms
for aged care. The first is the provision of $3.1 million in 2017–18 for improvements
to My Aged Care, a website and
call centre that provides a central entry point for aged care consumers and
providers. This is the only aged
care-specific budget measure that involves new funding. The second measure is
part of the Guaranteeing Medicare provisions, which include $67.3 million in
2017–18 to continue work on modernising the health and aged care payments
system, while retaining it in government hands.
On the whole, the aged care aspects of the Budget have been
viewed positively by stakeholders, particularly compared to last year’s Budget
which contained controversial changes to residential aged care funding.
Leading Age Services Australia and ACSA have welcomed the short-term funding
stability, especially while a number of policy and program reviews are
currently underway. Activity to address aged
care workforce issues has long been called for, and the additional funding for
ICT systems addresses criticism that they have caused ‘major challenges’ for
providers. However, COTA Australia
is opposed to the extension of contracts for Regional Assessment Services
(RAS), stating that the sector ‘urgently need[s]’ an ‘integrated aged care
assessment service’ that combines the RAS and Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT)
services. Alzheimer’s Australia says
it is ‘disappointed’ that the Budget does not include new or additional funding
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), ‘No
surprises’ aged care budget welcomed, media release, 9 May 2017; Aged
and Community Services Australia (ACSA), No
surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, media
release, 9 May 2017.
The budget figures in this brief have been taken from the following
document unless otherwise sourced: Australian Government, Budget
measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, pp. 110, 123, 145.
Australian Government, ‘Commonwealth
Home Support Programme’, My Aged Care website, last reviewed 20 December
Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2017–18, op. cit.,
Department of Health (DoH), ‘About
the Commonwealth Home Support Programme’, DoH website, last updated 20
New agreements will commence on 1 July 2019 in Victoria; two year
funding agreements will also be offered to eligible HACC providers and
assessment services in Western Australia, which will be moving to the CHSP from
1 July 2018. DoH, Strengthening
aged care—Commonwealth Home Support Program Funding Arrangements—extension,
Budget fact sheet, DoH, 2017.
Australian Government, Portfolio
budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.15A: Social Services
Portfolio, p. 113.
the Home Care Packages Program’, DoH website, last updated 21 April 2017.
S Morrison (Minister for Social Services) and M Fifield (Assistant
Minister for Social Services), Supporting
greater choice for older Australians, joint media release, 12
Portfolio budget statements 2015–16, Social Services Portfolio, op.
No surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, op. cit.; D
want to protect country towns’, Australian Ageing Agenda,
January–February 2017, pp. 22–23.
No surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, op. cit.
aged care—developing an aged care workforce strategy, Budget fact
sheet, DoH, 2017.
D O’Keeffe, ‘Budget:
funding for aged care workforce measures’, Australian Ageing Agenda,
10 May 2017.
Australian Government, My Aged Care
For a discussion of this and other recent changes to residential aged
care funding, see A Grove and A Dunkley, ‘Aged
care’, Budget review 2016–17, Research paper series, 2015–16,
Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2016, and A Grove, ‘Residential
aged care funding: recent developments’, FlagPost, Parliamentary Library blog,
20 March 2017.
These include the Aged Care Legislated Review due in August 2017,
consideration of a new model for residential aged care funding, and a Senate
committee inquiry into the aged care workforce. ‘No surprises’ aged care budget
welcomed, op. cit.; No surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, op.
N Egan, ‘Budget:
wins for aged care and health ICT infrastructure’, Australian Ageing
Agenda, 10 May 2017; D O’Keeffe, ‘Budget:
funding for aged care workforce measures’, Australian Ageing Agenda, 10
ACATs conduct assessments of people with more complex aged care needs
that may be met by government-subsidised Home Care Packages, transition care,
respite, or residential aged care. COTA Australia, Budget
aged care measures welcome—except one, media release, 9 May
Alzheimer’s Australia, 2017–18
Budget—dementia funding, media release, 9 May 2017.
All online articles accessed May 2017.
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