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Reforms a win for older Australians although more thought needed

Blue Care Executive Director Robyn Batten

LEADING aged and community care provider Blue Care has welcomed the Federal Government's aged care reform announcement, but urges policy makers to reconsider financing arrangements.

Blue Care Executive Director Robyn Batten said the government‟s Living Longer, Living Better response to the Productivity Commission‟s Caring for Older Australians report, released on Friday, was largely positive, with key areas acted upon.

"The Federal Government‟s announcement of aged care reform is a positive step towards ensuring all Australian‟s receive quality aged care," Ms Batten said.

"Blue Care has been preparing for changes in the sector and is well-positioned with our new service model, Blue Care Tailor Made, which focuses on person-centred, flexible and accessible care for the 49,000 people we assist.

"Although it will take time to fully analyse the government‟s proposal, we are pleased there is commitment to reform and we look forward to working with the government to implement reforms and address any concerns."

Ms Batten said her initial concerns centred on the financing of aged care reforms.

"While it is fair consumers who can afford to pay for services to make greater contributions, the government also needs to demonstrate greater financial commitment to its plan," she said.

"Of the $3.7 billion expenditure plan, only $576 million will be at the government‟s cost in the next five years, therefore it will be up to consumers and providers to carry the load.

"Under the proposal, reform costs will largely be covered through the means testing of consumers and the introduction of an Aged Care Financing Authority which plans to pull back $1.6 billion in funding from providers.

"We‟re concerned some part-pensioners, on a current income of $30,000 with in-home costs capped at $1800, may not be able to seek the care they require if the cap increases to $5000 in 2014.

"We encourage the government to increase its funding commitment and reconsider the Productivity Commission‟s financing scheme recommendation."

Ms Batten said positives in the plan included: the $1.2 billion allocated to alleviating workforce pressures and better training; an increase in home-care community packages; and removing high and low care distinctions in residential aged care.

"There will be no labelling of residential aged care residents as either „high‟ or „low‟ care and considering 91% of Blue Care residents alone are high care, the distinction had become meaningless," she said.

Ms Batten said lobbying efforts of the past 10 years had paid off and she thanked those who contributed.

"Our national UnitingCare network and Blue Care have played very active roles in advocacy to get to this point and I thank everyone who took part and supported the Australians Deserve to Age Well campaign which urged the Government to act, starting in this year‟s Federal Budget.

"In the coming weeks we look forward to working through the proposed plan in further detail."

Blue Care is the state‟s largest residential aged and community care provider with more than 4000 beds and 49,000 clients in 80 communities across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

Blue Care is a not-for-profit service agency of UnitingCare Queensland.

Photo : Blue Care Executive Director Robyn Batten