Home care the focus of aged care reforms
Posted : Thursday, June 14, 2012
Home care, not nursing home care, will be the centre of aged
care policy under the Federal Government's new aged care reform
package, the Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler has
told a CEDA forum in Adelaide.
Mr Butler told the aged care forum that the clear message from
consultation with older Australians showed that most did not like
the current system which was built around residential care and
"What people want more than anything else from an aged care
system is support for them to stay in their homes for as long as
possible - and if possible - for the rest of their lives," Mr
"That doesn't mean that we don't continue to need, as a country,
high quality residential care for people to fall back on ‑ probably
later in life and for shorter periods. We need to send a message to
older Australians that we have heard that message and what we are
going to do is build a system that enables people to stay in their
homes as long as (they) possibly can," he said.
Mr Butler and a panel, which included board member of the
seniors organisation COTA, Emeritus Professor Anne Edwards, and
board member of aged care provider ACH and the Social Inclusion
Board, Mary Patetsos, said that the Federal Government's aged care
reforms represented a "game-changing approach", focusing on
The forum heard that aged care reforms would address:
- Home care for older people;
- Sustainable and adequate retirement incomes for retired
- Structural and cultural barriers to increase workforce
- Ageing strategies for culturally and linguistically diverse
- Housing issues for retired people.
Mr Butler said housing for older people over the next few
decades would become the most significant challenge for aged care
policy as only two per cent of people over 65 are likely to own
their homes outright by 2050 - down from 78 per cent in 2012.
"We've already seen a reduction in the number of baby boomers
who own their own home outright, often due to things like
separation, and I think that this will remain a significant policy
challenge for national and state governments," he said.
Barriers to downsizing such as stamp duty, the pension test and
a lack of suitable housing for older people would also require a
strategic approach to policy, Mr Butler said.
The panel said that the aged care reforms represented a shift
away from the gloomy outlook presented by Treasury's first two
intergenerational reports. These reports highlighted the fact that
age-related expenditure constitutes 25 per cent of the Federal
Budget and this is expected to increase to 50 per cent of the
Budget in the next 40 years.
Mr Butler said that while economic woe in Japan and continental
Europe had been caused by their governments' inability to manage a
declining ratio of employed people to retired people, Australia was
implementing reforms by:
- Increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67;
- Promoting greater workforce participation of older people;
- Changing the indexation rate to ensure the pension rate
reflected the cost of essentials;
- Changing the superannuation guarantee charge from 9 per cent to
12 per cent by 2014;
- Changing the co-contribution rate for retirement care; and
- Establishing an ageing strategy for culturally and
linguistically diverse people to enable them to shape their own
aged care facilities.
"For us the move from 9-12 per cent over the coming years is a
very significant long-term reform as well as something that will
improve retirement incomes for millions and millions of people," Mr
This would mean another $130,000 in superannuation for a
30-year-old currently on an average wage, he said.
While structural reforms were being implemented to allow older
workers access to income protection insurance and workers'
compensation, major cultural reform was needed to encourage older
workers to work longer.
Although workforce participation of men and women over 65 had
increased dramatically (by 150 per cent and 200 per cent
respectively) over the past decade, employers and employees needed
to alter their views about the nature of work for older people.
"The question of whether baby boomers are all going to step into
their Winnebagos at the age of 65 and head off into the yonder or
whether they do continue to work, albeit a bit differently in the
workforce is... a profound policy challenge," Mr Butler said.
"The lack of capacity of a government to manage the dependency
ratio issues, particularly when it comes to retirement incomes and
workforce participation issues can, quite frankly, come close to
bankrupting a country. So I don't underestimate those
"We are not good at reverse gear in the work place. Australian
workplaces are generally predicated on the idea that you crawl up
the ladder and you get off it. There is not a good culture of us
coming back down the ladder, changing the way we work, reducing our
hours, perhaps stepping down a bit in our seniority in an
Mr Butler said: the most tragic thing about dealing with the
question of ageing of the population is that sometimes "those ...
25 years that were added to life expectancy sometimes ended up -as
years in which people became increasingly isolated, lost their
physical and mental health and generally were sad and depressed and
"The challenge that we want to talk about as a government is to
make sure that those 25 years as far as possible, remain good
years. That people remain healthy active, (and) connected to
their communities," Mr Butler said.
Ms Patetsos said that the model of aged care was moving towards
consumer-directed care, focusing on choice, control and better
access to care through a gateway. Home care and residential care
would become more integrated with a greater focus on links with the
community and recreational sectors.
This would require providers to shed lazy assets, to become
workforce focussed and to secure a larger, skilled workforce
through better pay, she said.
Government would need to allow providers some margin if they
were to innovate to provide complex, high quality care, she
"The challenge for all of us is to disentangle ageing from the
welfare web. We need to foster partnerships with government, other
stakeholders and older people - not just for their sake but for our
own," she said.
Professor Edwards said three elements would be integral to the
success of the positive ageing policy:
Return to the news
- Recognising that the group of older people is as diverse as
- Being mindful that peoples' lives are multidimensional and
ensuring that they can continue to be multidimensional as people
get older; and
- Allowing older people to have their own voice in the policies
and programs that affect them.