MARK COLVIN: Aged care reforms pushed through in the dying days of the federal Labor government last year are due to come into force in July.

The reforms will include tighter means testing of aged care services by assessing both income and assets – including the family home.

But aged care providers say the reforms both add unnecessary complexity and don’t go nearly far enough.

Deborah Cornwall.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: With the first wave of Baby Boomers now heading towards their frail elderly years, aged care advocates say government remains largely in denial about Australia’s aged care system.

Patrick Reid is CEO of the peak body, Leading Age Services Australia.

PATRICK REID: It is a political blind spot; there is absolutely no doubt about that. We saw that during the election, that there was no real understanding of ageing or the wish to deal with it.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Patrick Reid says in 2011, the Productivity Commissions Caring for Older Australians Report found a system so chronically underfunded, an average of 20 Australians every day are denied access to desperately needed aged care services

He says the report was supposed to be the blueprint for a major overhaul of aged care.

Instead, these latest reforms, he believes, only tinker at the edges.

PATRICK REID: One of the things we are seeing here is that it hasn’t gone nearly far enough and it’s still a bit of a lottery; there’s no guarantee that, although you may be assessed to receive aged care services, that you will actually receive them. So they are the bits that I think that are completely missing.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Only 2 per cent of Australians over 80 are in nursing homes, with another 18 per cent in some form of residential care.

That leaves the overwhelming majority of Australia’s elderly still live in their own homes – with a growing number forced to rely entirely on families and charity for support because government care services are so inadequate, 19 out of every 20 Australians can’t get the services they’re eligible for.

It’s a shortfall Patrick Reid says will only get worse under this latest round of reforms.

PATRICK REID: It is very much a haphazard approach; it’s not structured, it’s not formalised. There’s 2.5 million carers around Australia who get paid nothing, they are doing it for love. So within that, you are putting people under pressure continually and that pressure will continue to grow.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Rachel Lane is CEO of the national advisory service, Aged Care Gurus.

She says the new aged care reforms are primarily aimed at pushing services towards a user pays system, but the new system is so complex, access to aged care is likely to become even more difficult than it is now.


Deborah Cornwall reported this story on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 18:38:00