Dubbed the “Baby Boomer budget” by many, the Treasurer’s announcements concerning home care and aged care were eagerly awaited last week. So, when a total of only 14,000 high-level home care packages were announced, it seemed the numbers weren’t going to give relief to the 111,000 people currently waiting for a home care package. Likewise, many felt more needed to be done in terms of aged care places.

The Budget announcements which covered the aged care and home care sectors include:

  • $1.6 billion for an additional 14,000 high-level home care packages over the next four years.
  • The release of 13,500 residential aged care places and 775 short term restorative care places in the 2018-19 Aged Care Approvals Round with $60 million in capital investment to support new places.
  • $82.5 million over four years for mental health services for people in residential aged care.
  • $32.8 million over four years to deliver palliative care in residential aged care.

 Examining the figures, Louise Biti, director for Aged Care Steps said, “The budget looked like a bit of a letdown but there were many aspects which were still positive, with many people greatly relieved that home care and aged care fees did not increase. I don’t think this is everything the government is planning for aged care and home care for the next few years — they’ve done too many reviews so I think there’s more to come in the next budget.”

Ms Biti admitted, “While the extra packages are welcomed, it’s still little consolation for the 111,000 people on the waiting list for home care.”

She said the budget’s changes to the Pension Loan Scheme may help provide cash flow to fund private care services while they’re waiting or for additional services, once a package is allocated. “This may allow people to use the equity in their homes to help provide a safer environment to live and maintain independence as they age,” she added.

[Editor’s Note: WYZA will bring you a detailed look at the Pension Loan Scheme in the coming days.]

Are 14,000 new home care packages enough?

The 14,000 new home care packages will provide welcome relief for many older Australians currently waiting for a home care package. Some of these people are waiting for a higher grade home care package and they’ll now have more chance of getting one.

As the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said: “It means a lot more high care packages for people who want to remain at home rather than to go into residential care.”

The existing Home Care Packages Program provides a government subsidy to help fund assistance in the home so people can stay living in their own home, rather than moving to an aged care institution.

But if you’re not one of the lucky ones who receives one of the 14,000 new home care packages, changes to the government loan scheme may help.

“This budget acknowledges that home care is an important part of its ageing strategy. What it now requires is better financial planning from retirees to make this work,” says Biti.

“We may have to be better prepared to fund more of our care and change our perspective of our home. We may need to be willing to use some equity in our home to get us through until we get a package,” she added.

More aged care places announced

The budget also announced $60 million for more aged care places, which was welcomed by all those living and working in aged care residences. Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Pat Sparrow said she felt the budget demonstrated the government’s “commitment to aged care services but that more needs to be done.”

Mental health in aged care a winner

One of the real winners in the budget was an increase of $338 million for mental health services for people in residential aged care. Health Minister, Greg Hunt said, “Men over 85 years of age have the highest risk of suicide for all ages. That’s why the government will deliver $82.5 million for psychological services in residential aged care, while mental health nurses will help develop and deliver a $20 million program to support older Australians in the community who are isolated and at risk.”

This will be a major support scheme for all those in aged care, particularly those in rural and isolated areas and is sure to benefit many older Australians.

Palliative care will be much improved

An additional $32.8 million over four years was announced for palliative care in residential aged care. Many older Australians live in residential aged care facilities and as they approach the end of their lives, they have to transfer in and out of hospital many times. These funds for palliative care will allow them to gain access to specialist palliative care support while they’re in their aged care facilities, reducing the need for so many visits to hospital so they’ll be able to spend more time in their residence of choice and enjoy their final years.

Sweeteners added in lead-up to an election year

While it wasn’t exactly a ‘Baby Boomer budget’, it seems the budget was aimed more at Australia as a whole, offering just about everyone something to appease them in the run-up to an election year.

Middle Australia received tax cuts as sweeteners and older Australians benefited as well, with increases in what they can earn from working before it affects their pension.

While many may say these sweeteners are not enough when there are still so many Australians waiting for a home care package, the budget has quite a few positive outcomes for aged care and home care. With more government reviews currently underway, it’s hoped even more will be achieved in next year’s Federal budget.

Do you agree with these changes to aged care? Will these changes allow people to stay in their homes longer?