An appreciation of the needs of Australia’s aging population, and spending on aged care have been central to the 2018 Federal budget, with older Australians set to benefit from a raft of new measures. The overall spend for aged care has increased considerably, rising from $18 billion a year to now sit at $23 billion over four years. The aim of this spending plan is to help older Australians be healthier and live longer, remain independent and connected to their communities, boost living standards and expand retirement income options, giving retirees confidence in their financial security.
What the budget will provide for the aged care sector
- 14,000 home-care places, allowing people to stay in their own homes longer. These home care packages will be delivered in the home by providing services such as cleaning, shopping, personal care, showering, dressing and visits from respite carers. This funding boost means close to 74,000 people will be able to access home care packages by mid-2022. This will reduce the pressure on aged care places and the cost to older Australians of accessing residential care, and support the choice of older people wishing to stay at home for longer.
- The establishment of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to safeguard the rights of the elderly and protect people from abuse.
- Improved mental health services for people in residential aged care. This measure targets the widespread shortage of mental health services in aged care facilities, with treatment becoming available for residents with psychiatric disorders. This service will be delivered by a range of mental health professionals, including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists, counsellors and mental health nurses, and will include group sessions as well as individual therapies.
- Improved access to aged care facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.
- Expansion of the pension work-bonus scheme, which will allow people to earn an extra $50 per fortnight without reducing their pension.
- An extra 13,500 residential places will be made available for those who are no longer able to stay at home.
- Easier access to the My Aged Care website. The website will be streamlined to help people understand the system better, and to encourage people to start planning for their older years sooner by providing access to a wealth of useful resources. It includes online checks for people aged 45 and 65 to help them gauge their health, finances and skills so that they can better prepare for retirement.
- Physical activity programs aimed at keeping older people on the sporting fields, with $23 million provided to local sporting clubs to facilitate these programs.
- Wage subsidies for employers who hire people aged 50 and over. This measure encourages people to keep working for longer in order to lay the foundation for a secure retirement. Training of up to $2,000 can also be provided for mature workers.
- An increase in palliative care in nursing homes, with $33 million to be spent addressing chronic shortages.
- Building and maintenance work for aged care providers in regional, rural and remote areas to upgrade urgently needed facilities.
- Funding to aged care providers to implement new quality standards over the next two years.
These budget measures are vitally needed, as it is projected that more than 1.4 million Australians will be aged over 85 by 2046 (a big jump from the current level of half a million Australians aged over 85). Australia has an aging population and aged care in Australia is currently at a tipping point, with demand expected to increase for both residential care and home care packages in the future. While there is plenty more to be done, the 2018 budget has made a start in increasing choice, levels of care and facilities for older Australians – and that’s good news for all of us.