Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handed down the 2022-2023 Federal Budget on Tuesday 29th March. The budget sets the stage for the upcoming election with the cost of living at the forefront of concerns.
But how does it stack up for care providers and people in aged care and on the NDIS? Here we asked Lookout co-founder, and CEO of Five Good Friends, Simon Lockyer what stood out for him.
Continuation of the 2021 aged care budget
The primary focus on the budget commentary has been around the one-off cost-of-living payments which include $250 payments for pensioners. However, it’s fair to say there hasn’t been a lot of talk about aged care and particularly home care funding this budget.
According to Simon, it’s probably worthwhile to remember that this is off the back of last year’s budget, when they promised significant funding to the sector.
“Last year, $17.7bn was committed to aged care and about $7.4bn of that went to home care. That was to happen over the four years going forward and it was to implement many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission and to transform the industry or the sector into a technology-enabled, consumer-focused, data-driven, high-quality sector,” he explains.
This year, there are a few new initiatives to increase that commitment including an extra 40,000 Home Care Packages into the market.
“It continues to show the government's commitment to care in the home to enabling people to live connected to the friends, the families, the communities that they love for as long as they want, which we think is awesome,” Simon highlights.
New home care system coming soon
One reason there hasn’t been a lot of funding in this year’s budget is that the home care system is going to change next year. In July 2024, the Home Care Packages and Commonwealth Home Support Program will merge into the Support at Home program.
“The way you're going to be assessed, the way you'll get classified and the way the funding that you're entitled is given to you will totally change. I think they're really committed to hitting that date,” Simon explains.
Five Good Friends are part of the Assessment and Classification working group for the program.
“We think having one consistent program will raise the standard of care and give people more choice and opportunity and look forward to sharing more about the new program, and how care providers can prepare in the lead up to July 2024” - Simon says.
Aged care workforce challenges
Workforce is one of the biggest challenges in aged care. A CEDA workforce report found that Australia is facing a shortage of at least 110,000 aged-care workers in the next decade unless we take urgent action.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in this year’s budget.
“There still wasn't a lot there. There's $48.5 million for the JobTrainer Aged Care Boost, a new training to bring in people to see care as a career opportunity. And we welcome that,” Simon says.
On-site pharmacies for residential aged care
The most significant funding measure in this year’s aged care budget is $345.7million going to provide on-site pharmacists and community pharmacy services from January next year, which benefits residential aged care facilities.
“I think what is interesting about that is home care suffers the same challenges with medical misadventure and is the leading cause of hospitalisation. Medical mismanagement is a problem in home care too. This is a bit of a wish, but we would love to see that kind of focus for home care as well,” Simon says.
NDIS continues to grow
The other key budget area of interest is the news that the NDIS scheme is going to be more expensive than first predicted. But according to Simon, the good news is the government is fully committed to funding it.
“They announced an extra $39.6 billion over four years to funding the NDIS so they now expect next year to cost $33.9 billion up from $28.3 billion. But what's interesting about that is it's not the costs blowing out, it's the number of participants who are coming in. Plans are remaining pretty stable, but they're helping more and more people,” he says.
The good news is that because it’s an insurance scheme, ultimately it will use the data to level out costs.
“It also generates an enormous amount of economic stimulus for the economy too, because all these people are delivering services and roles,” he explains.