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10 May 2005
Enhancing Quality Care for Older Australians
In 2005 the Australian Government will maintain its commitment to initiatives that enhance the quality of care for older people, and improve the accountability of aged care homes and services.
The Government will also fund a new initiative providing assistance to raise awareness of macular degeneration, a common and increasing cause of blindness in Australia.
Enhancing 'Extra Service' choice
While all Australian Government-funded aged care homes are required to meet the same quality care and building standards, as enshrined in the Aged Care Act 1997
, some aged care homes offer residents more choice in the 'hotel type' services they can purchase. Such services might include an a-la-carte menu at every meal, cable or satellite television connection in recreational areas or residents' rooms, hair dressing salons and beauty treatments.
At present, Extra Service places account for only about four per cent of all residential aged care places.
The Australian Government supports the expansion of the Extra Service places to meet the demand by older Australians for greater choice in the services they receive. The current requirement that providers reapply for Extra Service status every five years will therefore be removed from 1 July 2005. This will not only encourage more providers to offer
Extra Service places, but also reduces paperwork for aged care providers.
To ensure equity of access to care for all people regardless of income, the current 15 per cent cap on the proportion of places in each state or territory that can be offered as Extra Service will remain.
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Quality care for older Australians
The Government’s quality framework for aged care includes programs to promote and protect the rights of aged care residents and their families.
Funding of $20.8 million over four years will be provided to support four important initiatives under the quality framework:
- the Community Visitors Scheme;
- the National Aged Care Advocacy Program;
- the Complaints Resolution Scheme; and
- the Information Management for Quality Care Initiative.
Continuing this funding will help residents, carers, families and the community continue to have confidence in the care provided to older Australians, and have avenues through which they can voice their concerns.
The Community Visitors Scheme enables around 6,600 volunteers each year to visit people in aged care homes. These visits are important for residents who have no family or whose family live at a distance and cannot visit regularly.
The advocacy services ensure older people have access to information about their rights and the services that can help them exercise those rights. The services assist people in community care and residential aged care, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
The Community Visitors Scheme and the National Aged Care Advocacy Program will receive $6.8 million in funding over four years.
The Complaints Resolution Scheme provides care recipients, their families or representatives with a cost-free, accessible and effective means of having their concerns heard about aged care standards and services. The Complaints Resolution Scheme will receive $4.4 million in funding over four years. It can be contacted on 1800 500 294.
The Information Management in Aged Care initiative monitors providers' compliance with obligations under the Aged Care Act
. It also explores how clinical information technology applications and tools can improve the quality of care for aged care residents. The Information Management for Quality Care initiative will receive $9.6 million in funding over four years.
The Australian Government will also maintain funding for the Residential Classification Scale Review, which ensures that aged care homes receive the correct taxpayer subsidies to enable them to provide care to their residents. This accountability measure is expected to save $63.5 million over three years.
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Increasing care and diversity for older Australians
The Australian Government will provide $29.2 million over four years to continue to assist older Australians and people with disabilities to remain in their community and to help reduce pressure on aged care homes through maintaining funding for:
- the Continence Aids Assistance Scheme;
- Day Therapy Centres;
- the Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care Initiative; and
- the wind down of the Safe at Home Pilot Program.
The Continence Aids Assistance Scheme provides financial assistance for the purchase of continence aids for more than 18,800 people with permanent incontinence.
Incontinence can severely limit a persons’ capacity to actively participate in the community, to work, and to live independently. The Continence Aids Assistance Scheme makes a difference to older people’s independence, well-being and quality of life.
Twelve day therapy centres will receive continued funding of $5.5 million over four years. Together with the other 142 day therapy centres funded nationally, they will continue to provide allied health therapies including physiotherapy and podiatry to around 1,000 frail older clients at any one time. Some centres provide home-based services with specific assistance to people with dementia, others deliver outreach services to clients who are remote or unable to travel. Future arrangements for day therapy centres will be consistent with
'The Way Forward - A New Strategy for Community Care
Older people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities should have more options to choose from a range of aged care services when they move into residential care. The Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care Initiative will be maintained with $5.1 million over three years. The initiative provides funding to eight organisations, one in each state and territory, linking ethnic communities with aged care providers to develop more culturally sensitive services. The initiative also provides cross-cultural training for staff of residential care services and information sessions for culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
The Safe at Home Pilot Program was intended to evaluate the benefits of providing personal alert systems to older people living independently in the community. Having met that objective, $1.4 million over four years will enable the managed wind down of the pilot.
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Macular degeneration: awareness raising
Macular degeneration is one of the leading cause of blindness in Australia, affecting mainly older people. The number of people with macular degeneration is expected to escalate, as the Australian population continues to age.
The Australian Government will provide funding of $0.5 million over four years to the Macular Degeneration Foundation. This will contribute to the work of the foundation and benefit people already with this serious disease or at risk of developing it.
The new funding will also assist in raising awareness of the condition, since the level of public knowledge about macular degeneration is low. This will help make the community aware of steps that can prevent the disease and the treatment available for people with the disease.
Increased Private Health Insurance Rebate for Older Australians
From 1 April 2005, the Private Health Insurance Rebate was increased from 30 per cent to 35 per cent for people aged 65 to 69 years, and to 40 per cent for people aged 70 years and over.
The increased rebates will cost $616.2 million over five years and will assist more than one million Australians aged 65 and over who are covered by private health insurance. These people will receive increases in their rebate of about $100 to $200 per year as a result of the change.
The increases apply to individuals who meet the age thresholds, and to couples and families where one or more of the persons covered is aged 65 or older. The change applies to both new and existing members of private health insurance funds.
As with the existing 30 per cent rebate, the increased rebate will be available for hospital cover, ancillary cover and combined cover, and may be claimed in three ways. These are a premium reduction through the private health insurance fund, a direct payment from a Medicare office, or a tax offset in the annual income tax return.