Aged care in Australia is inadequately funded; states the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety report. The Federal Government provided funding of $850 million to address one aspect of aged care, home-care packages. Packages provide level 1, the lowest level of care, to level 4, the highest care needs. Unfortunately, at the end of 2020, almost 100,000 people were yet to receive a suitable home-care package. Inappropriate allocation of home-care packages is common. A quarter of the 2020 government funds was disproportionally directed to the lower level and cost care, only required by 3% of older Australians.
In March 2021, the Royal Commission report concluded that without access to home-care services to meet their needs, older people face risks of declining function, preventable hospitalisation, carer burnout, earlier than necessary entry to residential aged care, and even death. The report recommends that the Australian Government provides immediate increased home-care package funding to clear the waiting list by December 2021.
But that was not all. The Royal Commission also found that there were systemic issues across the system that required a significant overhaul. Adding more home-care packages will not solve the problems of a failing system, identified by both the interim and final report of the Royal Commission. The Home-care packages program is poorly designed and has resulted in providers charging high administration fees, with over $1 billion of unspent funds. On top of this, the Commission found that the system was poorly regulated and not transparent enough, with one in three people receiving sub-standard care.
To address these issues, the Royal Commission has recommended a new Aged Care Act that enhances the rights of older people, including their right to high-quality care. The report outlines reforms to create a single new integrated aged-care program, including care at home and residential care. These reforms will result in easier access to support, reduced waiting times and eliminating co-payments for care costs. The Commission recommended independent governance structures and major workforce reforms, critical to ensuring better care. The formal response by Government is due on 31 May 2021.
To find out more about the Royal Commission’s recommendations in Grattan Institute’s newly released report on aged care: ‘The next steps for aged care: Forging a clear path after the Royal Commission.’