Celebration of the Uniting Care Innovative Pool pilot projects
Celebration of the Uniting Care Innovative Pool pilot projects, McCall Gardens, Box Hill NSW, with the Minister for ageing, the Hon Julie Bishop MP.
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24 June 2005
Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Could I acknowledge my good friend and Parliamentary colleague, the Honourable Alan Cadman, your local Federal Member for the seat of Mitchell, Mr Trevor Knight, the chair of Uniting Care, Gillian McFee, Greg Shapter from Uniting Care Ageing, Mike Ludwig and Ross Green, the President of the Board of McCall Gardens, the other board members of McCall Gardens, residents and families, friends and, I understand from Alan that there are even members of the Sunshine Club here today. Good to see you.
I am absolutely delighted to be here this morning. For a moment there, last night in Canberra, as we sat through the last sitting day before the winter break, I thought that Alan and I might be stuck down there and not able to join the celebrations today. So we are both very delighted that we could be in this beautiful part of New South Wales on this Friday morning.
We are celebrating today the work of two Innovative Pool pilot programs. This is very important work for informing policy of the government in aged care. Let me just take a moment to put these projects in context - the broader context of our ageing population.
Australia has an ageing population for two reasons. We have a decreasing birthrate, people are having fewer children, and an increasing life expectancy, we’re all living longer. That is really a reflection of the success of our nation, that life expectancy here is one of the highest in the world.
What it means is that there will be increasing demands for health and aged care over the coming decades. That’s why the Government has been in putting in place reforms, and policies and strategies and innovative projects, to make sure that we are able to meet the challenges of an ageing population, and meet the expected demand for further aged care services.
Over the last eight years since we came to Government in 1996, I think it is fair to say that the aged care sector has been transformed. It is virtually unrecognisable from the aged care sector of, say 20 or even 10 years ago. That has come about because of a significant number of reforms; in terms of quality, we are now seeing better quality care delivered; in terms of the buildings in which older people live, we are seeing much better homes being built; more skilled staff, a greater focus on the aged care workforce and greater education and training opportunities for the aged care workforce; better management and a much broader variety of care available in different care settings.
What we want to achieve in this country is a world class system of aged care. One that is high quality, one that is affordable, one that is accessible, and one that meets the individual needs, the choices that older Australians have as they age.
In order to realise that vision we have invested a great deal of taxpayer money into the aged care sector. Since coming to office there has been about a 135 per cent increase, from $3 billion back in ’96, to $7.3 billion a year that is now invested in aged care.
Most of that funding has gone towards increasing the number of subsidised places that are available. By places I mean residential aged care, and community care places. Over the period between 1996 and 2007, we’ll have seen 95,200 more aged care places available to older Australians who need care.
What we have now achieved is a situation where we have a range of care delivered in a range of settings. Home and Community Care, the HACC program, which is Meals on Wheels, personal care, that type of care, delivered at home. When we came into office about 350,000 Australians were receiving some form of Home and Community Care support. Today, it’s 750,000 Australians.
In the area of home care, and we know that people want to remain at home for as long as possible, wherever their home is, whatever community they live in, where they feel comfortable, that is where they would prefer to receive their care. So, we have increased and developed the Community Aged Care Program. Again, when we came to office there were 4,000 Community Aged Care Packages available across Australia. Today, 34,000 places.
We developed an innovative program called Extended Aged Care at Home, we call it the EACH packages, and they are the equivalent of high level care, high level residential care, but delivered to people at home. So where people would, at one point, have had to go into residential care, we are now giving them the opportunity to receive that high quality care at home. This package currently has about 1,800 recipients across Australia.
We have also focused on supporting the carers, that wonderful band of people who provide the love and care and support for their loved ones, the families, the friends, those who support them at home. In the last Budget we announced an increase of some $208 million for more respite for cares, meaning we understand that carers need a break as well. So we have provided support for them so that their loved one, the person for whom they care, can either go into a day centre, or overnight respite, or residential care, so that the carer can take a well-earned rest.
As we put this system in place, this framework of care, we have identified gaps in the system. The gaps have been between the aged care system and the disability sector, between community care, and residential care. So back in 2000 the Australian Government thought, “well, we need to work out ways to cover those gaps. We need to test ways of ensuring that we can put in place care that will ensure that people are not either moved from their homes into residential care too early, or are actually in the right place to receive care”. Thus the Innovative Pool program was born.
It is now five years since we introduced the Innovative Pool program. We have seen 41 projects across Australia use this pool of funding to come up with innovative ways to deliver care to cover those gaps, to ensure that we can test these models of care, to gather relevant data, and hopefully to use the information we have gathered from these projects to inform public policy, to roll out other similar models knowing that they work across Australia. The Innovative Pool funding is a flexible national pool of places, if you like, outside the usual aged care allocation round where we provide community and residential care places. It is a separate pool of funding and places to be used in a flexible, innovative way.
Some examples include the two pilot projects that we are celebrating today, ensuring that people with disabilities living in supported accommodation can received care for their ageing-related needs rather than having to move into residential care. If they can be supported where they are, where they are comfortable, where they are happy, that’s what we should aim to do.
Other areas have been working with people living with dementia, providing support for people with dementia. It is a fact that the prevalence of dementia in our community is increasing. The risk of dementia increases with age. So with an ageing population the prevalence will increase. It is estimated that about 185,000 people in Australia live with dementia. We have received some very good feedback on our Innovative Pool projects that are providing support for people living with dementia, such that, from this year we were able to announce that dementia would be an Australian Government National Health Priority. We have funded medical research, earlier diagnosis, community and aged care workers, all in a dementia-specific package of funding.
We have also introduced, for the first time, a new care model, Extended Aged Care at Home dementia-specific, EACH dementia-specific. What that means is that people who have dementia, who have high care needs, who would otherwise have no option but to go into high care in residential homes, will now be able to receive that level of care at home, in their community, with their loved ones. The first of these places will be available in the current aged care round. In fact, the invitations to apply for the aged care places will be placed in the national newspapers tomorrow. Over 11,000 places across Australia will be available and over 660 of these dementia-specific EACH packages will be available for application. I am looking forward to the results of this new pilot, the EACH dementia-specific places.
Under the Innovative Pool we have also looked at the issue of what happens to older people when they go into hospital and then they need to go home or go into residential care. It is that transition period that can be often so full of anxiety and fear and concern. So we have had an Innovative Pool project where we have put in place funding and support for people to have more time to rehabilitate, to recuperate, to make decisions about where they will live after an incident that saw them in hospital.
As a result of the information that we have gleaned from that project we have now announced a new Transition Care Program. 2,000 new places for transition care will be available. We will be working in cooperation with the State and Territory governments, so that when an older person leaves hospital and then needs time to rehabilitate, to recuperate, to think about the future, to think about where they are going to live, and make some decisions with family and advisers, the Commonwealth and States will pay for 12 weeks’ rehabilitation time. It can be extended for a further six weeks in certain circumstances.
So this transition funding, with the testing that we did in one of the Innovative Pool projects, will provide great benefits to people who need that extra time to make very important decisions in their life.
So, ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted that the Australian Government is working in partnership with aged care providers, with residents, with State and Territory governments, with families, community organisations, to deliver a world class system of aged care.
Now, as Trevor indicated, I might have a little surprise up my sleeve. Well, it is a little surprise for Uniting Care. Recently we had determined that we needed to streamline the way community care was delivered. We need to be more efficient and more effective in delivering respite care. So, we had a process called a ‘Request for Application’, asking aged care providers and other organisations who were providing respite care to think about new, more innovative, better ways to deliver respite care to people who need it.
We also had a Request for Application to co-locate Carelink Centres and Respite Centres, so we could get the efficiencies and economies of scale by co-locating those two organisations that provide information and support to people needing aged care advice and information.
Today I am announcing that the Australian Government will fund $374 million in community care funding in two areas. First, there will be $189 million for 414 projects across Australia for respite care. And Uniting Care here in New South Wales will receive $1.1 million for that respite care. This is a considerable increase on the funding that the organisation received last year, and it is in recognition of the wonderful work that Uniting Care Ageing is doing in New South Wales. I pay tribute to them for their success in this round of applications. Alan will be provided with more detail but it will be going out through the news media in about half an hour so I thought you should have the news first.
Secondly we will be allocating about $182 million to co-locate 54 Carelink and Carer Respite Centres, so that people can have a one-stop-shop area of information, a place where they can get the detail they need about aged care, about community care, about respite care.
So ladies and gentlemen, that’s an overview of some of the initiatives that we are taking in aged care. It is an area of priority for this government, and I am so delighted to have the opportunity to see one of our pilot projects in action, to meet the people who are involved and, particularly to thank the staff - the staff, of Uniting Care, the people here at McCall Gardens – for the wonderful job that they do in supporting and caring for those in their charge. I think the aged care workers across Australia are a treasure and I want to thank them for the work that they do in providing such high quality care for older Australians and people with disabilities.
Ladies and gentlemen, I congratulate Uniting Care and McCall Gardens for your involvement in these two projects.
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