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Aged care on the edge, but there is a path forward


6 April 2022 at 4:02 pm
Danielle Kutchel
After 20 reviews, a royal commission, and a global pandemic, the crisis in aged care in Australia has been thrust firmly into the spotlight.


Danielle Kutchel | 6 April 2022 at 4:02 pm


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Aged care on the edge, but there is a path forward
6 April 2022 at 4:02 pm

After 20 reviews, a royal commission, and a global pandemic, the crisis in aged care in Australia has been thrust firmly into the spotlight.

Ahead of this year’s federal election, aged care has been identified as a key issue for voters. 

Politicians have picked up on the hum from the electorate, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison offering bonuses of up to $800 to aged care workers back in January, and Opposition leader Anthony Albanese making aged care reforms a central tenet of his budget reply speech.

It’s clear that the sector has reached a critical point. Indeed, Anglicare Australia described it as a “tipping point” in its latest report, Tipping Point: a plan for a shock-proof aged care system.

Brooke McKail, national policy director at Anglicare Australia and author of the report, told Pro Bono News it was clear that Australians were finally thinking about aged care as an election issue.

Partly, she said, this was driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the issues faced by older Australians. But another important contributing factor to the crisis in aged care is systemic ageism, she said.

The reality is that it’s decades of underfunding by governments and one of the reasons for that… is a kind of ageism that flows through our whole society,” McKail said.

“Ageism means we don’t value older people as much as we should and if we don’t value older people we aren’t going to find ways to support them and to maintain their health and wellbeing and invest in the systems and services that are there for them. 

“Tackling ageism is one of the long-term reforms that this report calls for that would really make a difference to the way older people are valued in our community.”

The report sets out a number of other reforms that Anglicare Australia believes would make a drastic difference to the way that older Australians are treated. The most urgent, McKail said, is to address the aged care workforce.

Low wages are driving staff away from the sector, meaning many Australians are unable to find the care they need and deserve due to a lack of staff.

“Preparing for the future and building a strong aged care system must mean boosting wages,” McKail said.

The report notes that the system is now facing “major workforce shortages” with “fair and competitive pay” not being funded by the government, despite being a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

McKail said a case currently before the Fair Work Commission could provide an opportunity for governments to “step up” and commit to a significant pay rise for workers. 

Anglicare Australia is also calling on government funding for the sector to be increased to cover rising costs, to “be reflective of the true cost and the true value of aged care,” McKail said.

The report notes that most aged care services are running at a loss, and older people will “pay the price” in the form of a lower grade of service and care.

In the longer term, Anglicare Australia is calling for reforms to help Australians to age-in-place. 

“A lot of people want to age at home, they want to stay at home for as long as possible, but to be frank you can’t do that if you don’t have a home,” McKail explained.

“The housing crisis is really affecting older people. It’s pushing people into residential care before they need to be or would otherwise choose to be. The other major recommendation and call from this report from us is a massive investment in social and affordable housing so people can afford to age safely at home for as long as they want to, and without that older people really are risking significant rates of homelessness.”

The report makes a number of recommendations to address the housing crisis for older people, including ensuring renters have access to the same opportunity to age-in-place as those who own their own homes, a subsidised rent program and security of tenure for retired renters, and national minimum standards for rentals to ensure they are accessible and age-friendly.

For those who choose to move to aged care, McKail said it was vital for homes to help them age healthily and positively. Principles of wellness and reablement should be embedded into services, she explained.

“We don’t want aged care to be a place where people go to deteriorate. It can be a place where they go to build community and where communities are welcomed, and where their wellbeing can be supported throughout the rest of their lives,” McKail said.


Danielle Kutchel  |  @ProBonoNews

Danielle is a journalist specialising in disability and CALD issues, and social justice reporting.

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