Opening of LifeLink Experience Centre

The Minister for Aged Care, The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP spoke at the Official Opening of Feros Care's Lifelink Experience Centre on 30 January 2017.

Page last updated: 31 January 2017

PDF printable version of Opening LifeLink Experience Centre (PDF 300 KB)

Good morning.

Before I begin I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet, the Bundjalung people, and pay my respects to Elders past, present and future. I also acknowledge other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here this morning.

I want to thank the CEO of Feros Care, Jennene Buckley and the Chair of Feros Care, Terry Hand, for inviting me to speak this morning.

On the way here today, I can certainly see why people live in the Tweed and why holidaymakers make their way here in their thousands. And I can also see why the Tweed is a great place to retire. As the population of a region ages or, as in the case of this area, attracts older people to live here, they have to have services that meet their health and aged care needs.

This morning I want to talk about some of the current issues in aged care. I also want to outline some of the challenges faced by the aged care sector and what reforms we are proposing to help all Australians—no matter where they live, and what their circumstances—to age well.

This is not my first visit to a Feros Care Centre. In August last year, I visited the Feros Care Centre over the border in Coolangatta. During the visit I was really impressed with the passion and dedication of the Feros staff who are always looking at innovative ways to engage older Australians.
While I wasn’t in Coolangatta for a round of Feros Care ‘Virtual Bingo’—maybe next time!—the visit did give me an opportunity to participate in another virtual program. I had the pleasure of participating in a forum for older Australians where we used technology to interact with each other.

It’s just this sort of innovative idea that brings people closer—a fun get together online—without the hassle and expense of travel. Using the technology to find an innovative way to meet new people and have a chat as we age.

And, the great news is Australians, on the whole, are living longer and healthier lives. And aged care is adapting to a very significant demographic shift.

According to the 2015 Intergenerational Report, by 2054-55 there will be nearly 2 million people aged 85 years and over. That’s up from around 500,000 people today. We also anticipate that Australia will have many more older people, who are more active, more independent and continue to contribute to their communities in very direct and active ways. And just as they have done throughout their lives, older people will want to remain in charge of decisions about their care.

Access to quality, accurate and timely information is vital to support consumers and their families to make informed choices about their care. One of the key drivers for the Government is how to support and facilitate this. We need to shift the character and culture of aged care in order to respond to the changes in what getting older, and what aged care means, today, and into the future.

I’ve been very interested to hear Jennene and Terry speak about the 21st century care that Feros Care provides through the innovative use of technology in our health system and aged care sector. It’s this sort of thinking and agility that the Government encourages and welcomes. We need services and information that support people to make their own choices, to be able to seek support as they wish, when it suits them and in ways that work for them.

One thing we are hearing loud and clear is that an increased focus on choice for consumers only works when there are options available. In rural and remote areas, for disadvantaged consumers, and for any number of other reasons, the current direction of aged care reform might be challenging. The Australian Government understands this and that’s why we are committed to work with the sector on genuine innovative solutions.

I know that everyone at Feros Care is committed to finding innovative solutions for their clients and today’s official opening of the Feros LifeLink Experience Centre is a clear expression of what innovation and technology can do, and the choice it offers.

Historically, once people have accessed care there’s been an assumption that it will continue forever, gradually increasing. There’s now a greater appreciation that people at all ages, or stages in their life, can benefit from rehabilitation and restorative services aimed at keeping people genuinely independent and in their own homes.

In the past, and still within large sections of the community, there is a misconception that aged care is just “nursing homes”. Increasingly, we are focusing our efforts on supporting people to receive care in the setting they choose.

If aged care is to meet the demographic and cultural challenges of the next 20 years, it will need to be a system that produces quality services that are consumer-driven. These services will also need to be affordable for the community and individuals, and respect the diversity of nationalities and cultures in our society.

The Australian health system, including the aged care system, must be innovative and ready to respond to the challenges presented by an empowered, diverse and changing population; and by new and changing technologies.

In 2015-16, more than 1.3 million older people received some form of aged care. The great majority received home-based care and support. Around 235,000 people with higher care needs received permanent residential aged care.

Also in 2015-16, Australian Government expenditure for aged care totaled some $16.2 billion, more than two-thirds of which—$11.4 billion—was for residential aged care.

The challenge for the Government is to continue to press ahead and implement our ambitious health reform agenda across the whole system including aged care for the benefit of all Australians.

Streamlining and integrating the system to preserve its strength, ensuring it is sustainable, responsive and puts the needs of individuals at the centre of care. There are reforms across primary care–with our Health Care Homes initiative and the management of chronic and complex conditions. We are strengthening rural and remote health and the role of pharmacies.

We are streamlining the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, devolving health service decision-making out to the regions with Primary Health Networks, and supporting mental health and suicide prevention trials, just to name a few.

Aged care reform is a very important part of that broader reform process – and reflects the principles that underpin the whole reform agenda – greater choice, more flexibility, people-centred, sustainable. There is an important generational shift in attitudes. Baby boomers bring different expectations of service delivery, of health systems and of aged care – and remaining in control of their decisions is important.

It is important to all of us, in fact. Regardless of our background, we all want to feel empowered to choose the life we want, the conditions of our life, and the care that we access.

The key change is moving from ‘doing for’ to ‘doing with’. Aged care is a partnership – the consumer, their carers, the providers, the policy makers, and the government.

My Aged Care—the Government’s national online and phone service to help people find out about aged care services—is well on the way to functioning as a virtual marketplace. And giving service providers, like Feros Care, another opportunity to let consumers know what they offer. For assessors and providers, My Aged Care also has tools to take and manage referrals.

Freely accessing information and allowing consideration of the care options that will suit them the best puts the consumer in charge.

From 27 February 2017 – we will take this even further. Changes to Home Care Packages mean that funding for a home care package will follow the consumer, allowing them to direct funding to the provider of their choice. Home Care packages will be portable for consumers, allowing them to change providers if they wish. If they choose to change providers, any unspent funds (less exit amount) within their package, will follow them to their new Home Care provider.

This again is a simple, but transformative reform. It will give consumers ownership of who delivers their care, and how their care is delivered. Providers will, by necessity, be more focused on the needs of clients.

I hope I have brought you up to speed on some of the Government’s plans as we strive to make the health and aged care sector more responsive to the needs of all Australians. I’m looking forward to touring the various hubs set up here at the Experience Centre shortly. But before I do, I want to make the point that no government owns or controls Australia’s aged care system.

We are in partnership with you, and with the wider Australian community, to deliver the right conditions for a strong aged care sector. We have to look after our old people—they are our nation builders. We have to give them respect. And together, we will build better communities and a better kinder and more cohesive society will be the result.

It now gives me great pleasure to officially open the Feros Care’s LifeLink Experience Centre.

Thank you.

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