THE federal government has promised a substantial immediate injection of money into aged care, but will need billions of dollars to fix a “cruel and harmful” system.
The aged care royal commission wants a complete overhaul of the failing system, labelling it a shocking tale of neglect.
It wants significant additional funding now to cut long waiting lists for in-home care, plus urgent action to stop the over-use of drugs to sedate residents and get 6000 younger people with disabilities out of aged care.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was already work being done but there was much more to do.
He promised more money will be spent on aged care before Christmas, through the mid-year budget update in December.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said the figure would be substantial.
“We will have both an immediate and longer term response,” he told Sky News on Friday.
Provider group Leading Age Services Australia is lobbying for an extra $1.3 billion this year for residential care and at least $500 million annually for more home care packages.
On home care alone, the royal commission was told the government would need to spend an additional $2-2.5 billion a year to support people at their assessed level of need within three months.
Advocacy group COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said the government must commit more funds for aged care in the mid-year update and the May budget, but also needed a plan to drive change while waiting for the royal commission’s final report.
“The inescapable message from the royal commission is that hundreds of millions of dollars are needed towards home care packages now, this year, not in 2020,” he said.
Mr Yates said “quite a few billion dollars” would be required over the budget forward estimates, although reform to simplify the home care system would help.
“I think over the forwards they’d have to be talking billions if they’re really going to respond to the report, over the four years,” he told AAP.
The government has put more home care packages into the system, but the royal commission said it will not satisfy the current and growing demand for support for older people to remain in their homes.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck flagged reform of the home care system, noting there was about $600 million in unspent funds held by providers that was not being used to provide care.
National Seniors Australia chief advocate Ian Henschke said the government and industry could not afford to wait for the commission’s final report next November before acting.
“We have an opportunity now to serve the people who have served us throughout the years and they deserve much better than rotting in an aged care bed, with maggots feeding on festering sores,” he said.
The royal commission described the current system of prioritising and managing waiting lists for aged care services as a cruel lottery, in which some people die before they ever find out if they have “won”.