MEDIA RELEASE: Finishing aged care reform must be a top priority for government as Tune Review report released

Leading seniors advocate, COTA Australia, today welcomed the release of the Aged Care Legislated Review, which recommends the integrated package of changes needed to make Australia’s aged care system fit for purpose over the next two decades as our population ages.

The review, lead by David Tune AO, former Secretary of Finance and current Chair of the Aged Care Sector Committee, illustrates why the government must not falter in pushing ahead with the crucial next stages of creating a sustainable, high quality, user-focused aged care system.

COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said Australia is partway through a major reform process in aged care which will see older Australians have much more choice and control in the latter stages of their lives.

He called on the Government to respond positively to the Tune Report to ensure aged care is treated as a high priority now and given particular focus in the next Federal Budget.

Key recommendations of note in the Tune Review include:

  • Give older people in residential care ownership of their packages so they can choose the best provider and transfer to another if they are not happy with their care;
  • Increase access to home care packages, especially higher level packages;
  • Improve the capacity and user friendliness of the My Aged Care website, contact centre and assessment services; including the publishing of comparable home care service prices on My Aged Care;
  • Improve the sustainability of aged care to meet demand in the future; and
  • Provide consumer support services such as “System Navigators” and “Outreach Services” to help people connect to the aged care they need

“The Tune report is particularly pertinent given the unacceptably large numbers of older people on waiting lists for Home Care Packages, for too long, as the government has agreed today,” Mr Yates said.

“Demand for aged care at home, especially higher levels of care, is growing rapidly as our population ages, and a new generation of consumers wants their support and care to be at home.

“The Tune Review’s recommendations will move us to the next level of reform – the government must stay the path for the sake of older Australians now but to also prepare for the Baby Boomer numbers coming though over the next two decades.”

Older people will strongly support the Tune Review recommendations that residential aged care packages be put into the hands of residents and their families so they are free to use whichever provider they like and to move between providers on their own accord.

“This consumer-led shift has already occurred in Home Care Packages. It needs to be introduced in residential aged care without further delay,” Mr Yates said.

Mr Yates said he also welcomed Tune’s recommendations that the Australian Government increase access to home care packages by increasing the number of packages and rebalancing the mix of lower and higher packages, including moving resources from residential to home care. “The government has made good start by rebalancing current package levels to create more high care packages, but needs to act quickly on a more comprehensive solution” Mr Yates said.

“Obviously what is needed is an increase in the number of packages so no one, whether with high or low needs, misses out. Now we know the extent of the problem older Australian’s will expect the government will focus on fixing it as soon as possible.”

The Tune review recommends consideration of transferring future funds from residential care to home care, including a temporary release of unused or vacant residential care funding into home care packages to increase the number of available packages.

“This measure should receive early consideration as there is no overall shortage of residential care. However, it must be accompanied by placing residential care entitlements in the hands of consumers and families.”

COTA also welcomes Tune’s recommendation to significantly improve the capacity and user friendliness of the My Aged Care website, contact centre and assessment services which are the gateway to aged care; and the government’s commitment of $20 million towards this – while more will be needed.

“We also welcome recommendations to develop better supports for consumers and their families to connect to, access and find their way through the aged care system to get the help they need – such as funding “system navigators” and outreach services.

Tune also recommended a number of measures to improve the fiscal sustainability of the system.

“Governments are faced with the ongoing challenge of how to sustainably fund exponentially growing aged care so that it can fully cater to the needs of our ageing population, especially those without the means to contribute to their care costs.

“If politicians on all sides are going to rule out greater user contributions such as some of those recommended by Tune, they must tell Australians how they will fund aged care into the future; either government pays more or services will decline in quality and numbers.”

Mr Yates said he welcomed Tune’s recommendations about improving the transparency and fairness of the existing user contribution system.

“Older people and their families who can afford to make a contribution to their care costs they deserve clarity about co-contributions and fees that have a clear logic,” said Mr Yates.

“The government must now use the recommendations put forward in today’s report, supported by the sector through the National Aged Care Alliance, to deliver real, meaningful change to the sector that enhances the lives of well over a million older Australians every year.”

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Bronte Kerr 0411 676 269

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.