Aged care funding overhaul modest but welcome

02/05/2012

Martin Laverty
Martin Laverty.
From Catholic Communications,
Sydney Archdiocese

The federal government's $3.7 billion overhaul of aged care announced last week represents only $115 million annually over five years in new funding, with the bulk of the package consisting of redirected funding allocated to the sector in previous years.

"The actual increase in new money to the aged care sector is modest," Catholic Health Australia (CHA) CEO Martin Laverty said, explaining the majority of the funding for the government's Living Longer, Living Better policy is made up of redirected allocations from the scaled back Aged Care Funding Instrument program (ACFI).

The ACFI was established in March 2008 with a $1.6 billion package to allocate subsidies to aged care providers.

However, it seems this sum will now be put towards the government's new aged care policy announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing Mark Butler on Friday 20 April.

As a result, the actual amount of new funding in the $3.7 billion package is a little over half a billion or $575 million over five years - or just $115 million per year with an additional $55 million put aside for the upcoming financial year beginning on 1 July.

Despite the rate of new funding being lower than was hoped, CHA, which operates 500 residential and community aged care facilities, has joined others in the aged care sector in welcoming the government's urgently needed reforms planned for aged care.

But Mr Laverty warns the government's "stubborn desire to deliver a surplus" makes it extremely unlikely for any new funding to be allocated to aged care in next week's budget, and believes new funding will remain at the modest amounts already announced.

Nevertheless, Mr Laverty said securing even the relatively small amount of new funding for aged care given the government's fiscal constraints represents a win for older Australians.

"The reforms mean steps towards an increase in consumer choice, with an increase in the number of home care places that will be made available," Mr Laverty said.

Read full story at the Sydney Archdiocesan site


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