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Australian government failure to act on the Royal Commission into Aged Care

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The recent Budget 2022-23 for Aged Care has failed to address the recommendations of The Royal Commission into Aged Care which predominantly raised the following issues, a right’s foundation for quality aged care, independence from Government, and a secure source of funding.

In the budget for workforce 2022-23 as part of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety response, the Australian Government has committed $652.1 million to workforce aged care reforms. The Budget further invests $99 million in this area, and a further $303.3 million in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the total aged care commitment growing to over $129.9 billion over the next four years. An additional workforce bonus payment of up to $800 each in aged care, based on the most hours worked within a defined time period.

As part of the Commission’s response, the Australian Government has also committed $7.8 billion to residential aged care services, including the $10 per resident per day Basic Daily Fee supplement, and $3.9 billion to support delivery.

The Australian Community Industry Alliance (ACIA), a not-for profit organisation, has identified in their recent paper in response to the Budget that the government has failed to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care in a timely manner. Further, it fails to identify how the government will address the systematic failure of both aged care and disability sectors as operated by the Aged Care and NDIS Commission and how the government will ensure the management of resources and that the Quality Management Principles are set in place.

The Royal Commission also proposed a new regulatory system which would be more rigorous and vigilant in terms of suitability and capacity of providers to deliver a high standard of care to the most vulnerable of our society. The current aged care system and its weak and ineffective regulatory arrangements were not an accident but a consequence of inadequate expenditure from the government. The Royal Commission had proposed a new regulatory system which has not been put in place.

The Joint standing committee on NDIS produced a report on NDIS Workforce (Australian Government, 2021b), yet none of these recommendations have been implemented.

ACIA has reached out to the relevant community with a series of questions on the matter as shown in their paper, and the responses have indicated that the system is not working. When asked what is the biggest issue currently impacting on providers, out of 456 responses, 1 in 2 responded with lack of workforce; 1 in 3 said inadequate funding; and 2 in 5 said workload (12%) and COVID (5%). When asked the question who best supports the needs of frail, disadvantaged and vulnerable in the community, out of 132 responses, 83% replied with ‘Families and Carers’ and only 7% went along with Federal and 8% with State Government.

The Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association president, Karen Booth, said that the nursing placements in the budget were a welcomed participation but the funding in itself did not address the issue of an ageing nurse workforce. She further stated that the Aged Care sector was understaffed and over worked even before the COVID 19 restrictions and measures were introduced, now it is even more stretched than before, and the budget has failed to meet the gaps in demands for healthcare in settings such as residential aged care homes.

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