The vast majority of Australians want to be cared for at home in their old age, yet home care is hard to get, confusing, and can be expensive.
The federal government has made significant and welcome commitments to address many of the shortcomings identified by the Royal Commission into Aged Care. But despite committing more than $2.44 billion of additional funding each year to home care places, the government’s response leaves unfinished business.
Firstly, the government has not committed to keeping waiting times for home care to less than a month – and more home care places will be needed as the number of older Australians increases.
Secondly, the extra money the government is providing will be spent in a poorly regulated and hard-to-navigate system where consumers get a poor deal.
And thirdly, the government has no plan to boost the number, pay, and conditions of home care staff.
About 46 per cent more staff – or about 58,000 carers – will be needed just to meet the planned increase in home care places. To attract and retain home care workers, they should get better pay and conditions.
A better home care system would cost the taxpayer more. The costs of creating more places could be partly offset by reduced administrative costs and reduced demand for residential care. But the improved regulation and navigation support needed would cost at least $400 million a year more than the government is promising to spend.
The government has done a lot in response to the 2021 final report of the Royal Commission, but it needs to do a lot more. It should take the system to the people, by establishing dozens of regional offices across Australia to develop local, personalised services for people who need aged care and want it delivered to their home. More money and better design could give Australians more dignity and better care in their old age.