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Industry warns chance to reform aged care is slipping through nation’s grasp

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A once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform aged care is slipping through Australia’s grasp, peak industry bodies warn.

On the first anniversary of the royal commission’s damning final report that urged sweeping reforms, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration says there is still so much work ahead to solve the key structural issues identified.

AACC spokesman Sean Rooney says the commission’s recommendations would transform the sector if implemented.

“We need the government to step up and commit to funding a pay rise for aged-care staff and to put resources into recruitment and retention of staff as well as training,” he said.

“Current funding levels mean that most providers are unable to do this.”

The federal government is responding to the commission’s 148 recommendations over the course of a five-year plan.

Health Minister Greg Hunt says more than $18.3 billion will fund change across home care, residential care, quality and safety, workforce and governance.

In the past 12 months the government also established National Aged Care Advisory Group and the Council of Elders to help guide reforms.

Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck says a key priority in the past year has been to boost home care packages to help people stay in their own homes for longer.

He said the number of senior Australians who had access to a home care package was up 25 per cent at the end of 2021 compared to the end of 2020.

“Residential aged-care providers are also receiving extra funding of $10 per resident per day to improve care and services, especially food and nutrition, and must report care staffing minutes to make sure senior Australians get appropriate care,” he said.

But the AACC warns the investments announced by the government will fall short of what the industry needs because it has been underfunded for so long.

It wants both the government and opposition to commit to a minimum wage increase for aged care workers.

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Paul Sadler says the government’s response to the commission has so far avoided a pay rise for aged-care workers, and has not addressed how the sector will be funded in future.

“Action on royal commission-recommended reform is critical and the opportunity for lasting, systemic change must not be kicked down the road by government or lost altogether,” he said.

“All parties need to commit to funding the outcome of the Fair Work Commission aged care work value case. And all parties must ensure aged care is funded properly and sustainably so we can provide high-quality services.”

-AAP

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