Aged care

Budget Review 2017–18 Index

Kate Roberts

This Budget has been welcomed by provider peak bodies as containing ‘no surprises’ for aged care.[1] 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 legislation.

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.[2] As described in Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2: 201718 this does not appear to be new funding, as ‘Funding... has already been included in the forward estimates’.[3] 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).[4] 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’.[5] 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.[6]

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).[7] 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.[8] The aim is to simplify the aged care system for consumers and reduce ‘red tape’ for providers.[9] However, stakeholders have questioned the feasibility of the initial timeframe for this reform.[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] 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 workforce strategy.[13]

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.[14] 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.

Reactions

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.[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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.[18] Alzheimer’s Australia says it is ‘disappointed’ that the Budget does not include new or additional funding for dementia.[19]


[1]. 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.

[2]. 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 2016.

[3]. Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 201718, op. cit., p. 123.

[4]. Department of Health (DoH), ‘About the Commonwealth Home Support Programme’, DoH website, last updated 20 April 2017.

[5]. 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.

[6]. Australian Government, Portfolio budget statements 2015–16: budget related paper no. 1.15A: Social Services Portfolio, p. 113.

[7]. DoH, ‘About the Home Care Packages Program’, DoH website, last updated 21 April 2017.

[8]. S Morrison (Minister for Social Services) and M Fifield (Assistant Minister for Social Services), Supporting greater choice for older Australians, joint media release, 12 May 2015.

[9]. Portfolio budget statements 2015–16, Social Services Portfolio, op. cit.

[10]. No surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, op. cit.; D O’Keeffe, ‘I want to protect country towns’, Australian Ageing Agenda, January–February 2017, pp. 22–23.

[11]. No surprises but some useful initiatives for aged care, op. cit.

[12]. DoH, Strengthening aged care—developing an aged care workforce strategy, Budget fact sheet, DoH, 2017.

[13]. D O’Keeffe, ‘Budget: funding for aged care workforce measures’, Australian Ageing Agenda, 10 May 2017.

[14]. Australian Government, My Aged Care website.

[15]. 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, 201516, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, May 2016, and A Grove, ‘Residential aged care funding: recent developments’, FlagPost, Parliamentary Library blog, 20 March 2017.

[16]. 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. cit.

[17]. 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 May 2017.

[18]. 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 2017.

[19]. Alzheimer’s Australia, 2017–18 Budget—dementia funding, media release, 9 May 2017.

 

All online articles accessed May 2017. 

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