MEDIA RELEASE: 10,000 new home care packages great news – but $320 million funding for residential age care should be tied to staffing

Leading seniors’ advocacy body, COTA Australia, warmly welcomed the Government’s announcement it will bring forward funding for 10,000 more home care packages, providing support and care to older Australians at home – bringing the total number of additional packages over the last year to 40,000.

COTA Chief Executive Ian Yates said, “While more packages are needed to achieve our target of a maximum three months wait, this is another significant step forward that will have a real impact on waiting times for people who need support and care to stay at home safely”.

Mr Yates also welcomed the $7.7 million for improving the quality and safety regime for home care, to ensure people providing services in an older person’s home are doing so at the highest levels of safety and quality at all times, under new quality standards that will apply from 1 July.

“An additional $35.7M provided to increase the dementia and veterans supplements on home care packages by 15 percent is also really positive and welcome news” Mr Yates said, “Often remaining at home is the best option for people with dementia, who do much better in familiar surrounds, but they need that extra level of support to be able to stay at home safely.”

Mr Yates said COTA also welcomed $320 million in extra funding for residential aged care providers but expressed concern that government has not tied this to better staffing, saying that “it is disappointing there are no conditions attached to require providers to use the additional funding to increase staff numbers and/or support workforce training and development programs that will lift the standard of care in Australian nursing homes”.

“I expect many of the issues and unsatisfactory practices that will be raised during the Aged Care Royal Commission, which begins it’s first hearings to tomorrow, will be attributed to inadequate staff numbers and poor staff training and development,” Mr Yates said.

“While inadequate funding is never a defence for unsafe practices, it is an issue in achieving the highest level of quality care to ensure the dignity, respect, autonomy and citizenship of all nursing home residents. While the government has not quarantined its extra funding to improve staffing, as we argued for, I would urge all providers to use it for that purpose and not to generate extra profits”, Mr Yates said, adding that “We will be keeping an eagle eye on this”.

The new home care packages and residential aged care funding are key planks of the $662 million aged care package announced today, which also contains a number of other smaller measures, including a welcome commitment to trialling a new method of funding residential care.

Mr Yates said COTA is pleased the Government is continuing to pursue aged care reforms while the Royal Commission is underway.

“While 10,000 new home care packages is short of what we need, it is a substantial funding boost for a vital pillar of our aged care system that enables people to age at home instead of being prematurely forced into residential aged care when that’s not what they need or want” Mr Yates said

Media contacts: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.