Government commits further funding to aged care
The Federal Government has just announced a $563.3 million boost to the aged care sector's response to COVID-19, following ongoing criticism over management of the sector that cares for Australia's most vulnerable.
How the Government has and will continue supporting and funding a response to COVID-19 within the aged care sector, remains topical amongst questions directed towards the Minister for Aged Care, Senator Richard Colbeck.
This new funding boost now takes the Government spend on aged care for senior Australians to over $1.5 billion since the beginning of the pandemic.
A joint statement from Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Senator Colbeck, indicates that the funding will further secure the industry during the crisis. (Read More Here: The Hon Greg Hunt MP & Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck)
"We are committed to supporting senior Australians in aged care, workers and providers in Victoria to respond to the ongoing crisis and are putting in place critical actions to ensure we remain prepared across the country," says their statement.
"Building on the $205 million COVID-19 Support Payment provided to all residential Aged Care providers in June 2020, the Australian Government will extend this payment to provide a further $245 million injection into all facilities.
"This funding will be required to be used by providers to fund and support enhanced infection control capability, including through an on-site clinical lead.
"Funding may also be used to address other COVID-19 related costs such as increased staffing costs, communications with families and managing visitation arrangements."
All providers will need to report how these funds were used for COVID-19 related costs, which will be a requirement for the providers during their end of financial year returns.
Providers will receive an expected $975 per resident in metropolitan areas and an estimated $1,435 per resident in other areas. This payment is accessible through Services Australia in early October.
The Australian Government will also extend the 30 percent increase for the viability supplement and the residential care homeless supplement for six months.
Funding for the Supporting Aged Care Workers in COVID-19 Grant will be extended for a further eight to 12 weeks with $92.4 million available. The aim of the grant was to cover the costs of implementing single site workforces in hotspot areas like Greater Melbourne and the Mitchell Shire. If there are any new hotspots, further funding will be activated in those areas.
Additionally, a third Workforce Retention Payment has been implemented based on employment at 30 November 2020, which will cost $154.5 million.
"Aged care workers are continuing to provide invaluable care for our senior Australians," the statement said.
"This will provide a financial incentive for workers to continue to provide the frontline care that is needed in facilities across the country.
"This third payment will have the same eligibility criteria as the first two rounds (the first paid in July, the second scheduled for September) of the workforce retention bonus."
Lastly, there are Government supports are for older people who wish to move out of their residential aged care facility and into the community to be with their family if they have concerns around COVID-19.
There will be an additional $71.4 million for the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) to assist older people moving into the community.
Peak body for aged care, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), acknowledged the further support that is being provided to aged care services and their workers.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of LASA, Sean Rooney, says that most of the COVID-19 supports for aged care was due to expire at the end of August, so the new measures announced by the Government will assist providers in fighting COVID-19 over the coming months.
"For the most part, the announcement represents an extension of existing measures, which enables residential care services to maintain current levels of protection," says Mr Rooney.
"We look to work with the Government on further supports based on the lessons learned in our fight against COVID-19. This includes expanding the retention bonus and paid pandemic leave programs, further supporting in-home care services, and providing clarity on single site working arrangements.
"LASA last week made its pre-Budget submission to Government outlining a number of immediate and ongoing measures that are needed as soon as possible to keep older Australians safe. LASA will continue to work with Governments and the recently announced Aged Care Advisory Group to the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) to ensure that we are doing all we can to protect older Australians receiving care and support in Australia’s aged care system from the coronavirus."