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Tag Archives: aged care

Phillip Coorey

April 20, 2012

AN OVERHAUL of the aged-care sector to be released today will enable tens of thousands more people to be cared for in their homes and will inject $270 million into dementia diagnosis and care.

But the reform, a signature element of the budget on May 8, will introduce a co-ordinated, user-pays system, including requiring those with greater means, such as self-funded retirees, to pay more for their care. Costs will be capped and there will still be a government contribution. There will also be options to reduce pressure on people to sell their homes to pay for care or secure a place.

People will be able to pay with a lump sum bond, raised perhaps by selling their home or from savings; or periodic payments, raised by either selling their home and banking the proceeds, reverse mortgaging the property, or from savings or other assets. People can combine a lump sum and periodic payments. To prevent people being forced to conduct a fire-sale of their house to secure a scarce spot in an aged-care home, there will be a cooling off period allowing them to enter the home and then work out how they want to pay.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, promised to reform aged care before the election after the Productivity Commission found last year the system was ill-suited to cope with a rapidly ageing population. Under the reforms, money will be taken from funding now used to subsidise care in nursing homes, which has blown out by $2.3 billion, to fund care services for ”tens of thousands of people” who wish to stay in their homes. ”If you want a nursing home place, we will make it easier to get one,” Ms Gillard said. ”If you want care in the home, we will make it easier to get that care. More people will get to keep their home and more people will get to stay in their home.”

Of the $268.4 million to be set aside for dementia over five years, $164.3 million will be paid as supplements to those in both aged-care facilities and at home. The rest will be used to promote earlier diagnosis of the disease. The aged-care package will be one of the few budget measures to involve any significant new spending because the main theme will be striving to return to surplus.

Yesterday Ms Gillard insisted the Reserve Bank was independent when she was accused of pressuring it to drop interest rates in return for a surplus budget. ”What we can do as a government is to have the right budget settings for the economy today, and that is to bring the budget to surplus,” she said. ”It also means it gives the Reserve Bank more room to move should it choose to do so.”

As Ms Gillard argued the case for a surplus, one of the world’s most influential investors endorsed the government’s spending discipline and pledged to continue buying Australian government debt. US firm GMO, which manages $US97 billion ($93.4 billion), said Australia’s debt was attractive to foreign investors because government spending was sustainable.

The head of asset allocation at GMO, Ben Inker, wrote in a note to investors: “The only bonds we have much fondness for are Australian and New Zealand government bonds because only those countries give a combination of a decent real yield and government spending policies that are sustainable in the long run.”

Ms Gillard criticised the Minerals Council of Australia for running full-page newspaper advertisements warning the government not to increase the tax burden on miners. Despite speculation to the contrary, the government has no plans to pare back the miners’ diesel excise rebate by more than the already-announced 6.2¢ a litre, nor abolish their exploration or accelerated depreciation concessions.

 with Clancy Yeates Read more:

Nurses urge Gillard to bridge wages gap between aged care and hospitals

  • Ewin Hannan, Industrial editor
  • From: The Australian
  • March 21, 2011 10:36AM

THE Australian Nursing Federation is urging the Gillard Government to commit $513 million to close the wages gap between aged care and public hospital nurses across the country.

Lee Thomas, the union’s federal secretary, said the ANF was negotiating with aged care providers for a proposed framework agreement designed to commit employers to closing the wages gap and establishing “competitive wages” for aged care nurses.

Under the proposal, the union and providers would be able to access the government funding required to close the gap once an employer had struck an enterprise level agreement with their employees.

A draft report by the Productivity Commission aged care inquiry said there was a need to pay “competitive wages” to aged care nurses. However, the union has accused the commission of paying “scant regard” to the issue.

Union analysis of wage agreements in the public hospital sector and aged care sectors shows the average difference nationally has increased from 13 per cent in 2002 to 14.8 per cent this year.

In a speech last month, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, noted the “challenge” of providing the aged care sector with a good, adequate supply of properly paid, adequately trained workers.

“I know, having represented aged care workers for 15 years before I entered Parliament in 2007, that the issues relating to workforce are broad and they’re deep,” Mr Butler said. “The wages gap for all occupations in aged care, whether residential or community, is significant. That is obviously not only an issue of fairness and equity for those who work in this incredibly important sector, but it’s also an issue of being able to recruit and retain the adequately trained workers we need to provide the quality care that we expect older Australians to receive.”

Ms Thomas, who is due to give evidence before the Productivity Commission inquiry when it convenes in Melbourne today, said the union did not walk away from the fact that the amount sought from the government was a “big number”.

But she said the wage disparity had led to a staffing crisis in aged care and if the gap was not closed, the sector would continue to struggle to attract employees.

The estimated cost of closing the wages gap has been adjusted by 30 per cent to accommodate provisions in workplace agreements and awards, including shift loadings, penalties, sick leave, and annual leave loadings. It has been further adjusted by 20 per cent to take into account salary on costs including payroll tax, workers compensation premiums and superannuation.

The estimates assume public hospital wages will increase an average 4 per cent annually while private aged care salaries will rise by 2 per cent a year.