Implementing increased choice in aged care

The Federal Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health, Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Conference on 27 June 2017.

Page last updated: 28 June 2017

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27 June 2017

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Good morning and it is great to be with you.

Before I begin I would like to acknowledge the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet. I extend my respects to Elders past, present and future and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here this morning.
I’d also like to acknowledge:

    • COTA Chief Executive, Ian Yates, AM;
    • Fellow speakers,
    • Ladies and gentlemen.
Introduction

Regardless of who we are or what we are doing, having choices is a vital aspect of empowerment.

We are more likely to be satisfied, when we receive services that we have chosen.

That’s why implementing increased choice in aged care is so important.

It’s a subject that complements COTA’s vision of “ageing as a time of possibility, opportunity and influence”.

Your vision is reflected in the Turnbull Government’s commitment to expanding personal control and flexibility for aged care consumers.

More choice

Late last February, I launched a major shift in the consumer focus of care, introducing a consistent, national process for prioritising the provision of home care, to ensure fairer and more equitable access, regardless of where someone lives.

The Increasing Choice in Home Care package aims to put the choices of more than 100,000 aged care clients across Australia first.

For the first time, there will be transparency and improved certainty for all home care applicants and recipients.

Four months in, the new system is bedding down, with a national queue to prioritise access to care.

Under the old arrangements, wait lists were held by providers and we could not measure demand.

There was significant variation in the waiting periods for packages across Australia, with no way of addressing this.

The new system has important benefits:

Firstly, we will be able to measure demand for home care packages.

Secondly, we will be transparent about the demand by advising clients about their place in the national queue and wait times. This information should be available from the end of next month.

The new system provides the evidence base for my Department to make adjustments and address inconsistencies.

These reforms mean that, for the first time, funding for home care follows the consumer, not the provider.

Importantly, consumers have the flexibility to change their provider if they want to, and they do not lose their place in the system.

Or if they move to another area or state, they can take their package with them at any time.

Furthermore, consumers in residential care have greater choice in how to pay for their aged care through a Refundable Accommodation Deposit or a Daily Accommodation Payment, or a combination of the two.

Also, they enjoy increased protection through the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner.

And we have new programs to support people at home longer, through the Home Care Packages Program and the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

Note that the process for becoming an approved provider has also been streamlined to strengthen the capacity of organisations to deliver quality care and services.

Budget’s support for aged care.

The recent Turnbull Budget, includes our Long-Term National Health Plan of $10 billion over five years, with many positive measures supporting choice for older Australians.

The Government is extending funding arrangements for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) of $5.5 billion for a further two years until 30 June 2020.

This will benefit consumers receiving home support, and their carers, by providing continuity of essential services such as transport,

Meals-on-Wheels, domestic assistance, personal care, nursing and allied health and respite.

As well as providing greater choice for older people, new funding conditions will deliver more focus on activities to support independence and wellness.

My Aged Care

The My Aged Care online portal has been the subject of a national awareness campaign recently, encouraging older Australians, their families and carers to log on.

My Aged Care gets an additional $3 million to keep pace with an increasing number of people accessing its up-to-date information about aged care and healthy and active living.

This benefits all users, including more than 33,000 employees of service providers and assessment organisations that use the website daily to maintain their service information and client referrals.

My Aged Care functionality has been expanded to ensure consumers have quick and easy access to information on approved home care providers offering services in their area.

Once consumers have been assigned a home care package in My Aged Care they can use the ‘Find a Service’ functionality to search for providers in their area who may be able to support them with the home services they need.

Expanding the workforce

We recognise that a modern aged care workforce is a key priority for tomorrow.

It’s estimated that the aged care sector will need to expand its workforce from 366,000 to 980,000 by 2050 to accommodate the growing numbers of older Australians.

In 2016, 15 per cent of the Australian population, or 3.7 million, were aged 65 and over.

That proportion of older Australians is expected to grow—to 22 per cent, or 8.7 million by 2056.

The 2017-18 Budget announced funding of $35 million over three years for a measure entitled Growing and Developing the Local Care Workforce, designed to help meet disability and aged care demands.
Support for minorities

The Australian Government is also reviewing strategies to support the aged care needs of people from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) communities.

From the end of this month these strategies will be included in the new Aged Care Diversity Framework.

Conclusion

I’ve been taking a lot of time listening to what people are telling me all around Australia – their personal experiences, their hopes for loved ones, their aspirations, and their practical, down-to-earth proposals to continue creating an aged care system we can be proud of.
A number of reviews are adding to the store of knowledge that is building on the challenges we face and our shared achievements.

The Government will also be guided by the Aged Care Sector Committee’s Roadmap and the work of the Aged Care Legislated Review – due to report to me in August.

This will help ensure we have sustainable, caring policies for the benefit of this valuable, yet vulnerable section of the community — our elders.

I began with the comment that COTA’s vision mirrors the Australian Government’s commitment to increase choice control and flexibility for aged care consumers.

I conclude with the observation that we also identify with COTA’s role to “promote, improve and protect the wellbeing of older people in Australia as citizens and consumers”.

We’re on the same page. Let’s go forward together.

Thank you.
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