This year’s federal budget recognises the increasing challenge ageing presents to government, with big funding increases across aged care, as well as support for older Australians to receive care at home.
Australians are now living 10 years longer than they were half a century ago, with our life expectancy now the fifth highest in the OECD.
Plus the government is no doubt also hoping it plays well in the upcoming election, likely to happen in the first half of next year.
“Just because you are getting older does not mean you should have to surrender your dignity or your choices,” said Treasurer Scott Morrison in the budget speech.
“We’re living longer. It’s a good thing. We want to preserve and increase the choices of older Australians.”
To do this the government has announced the More Choices For a Longer Life package. This includes:
- An additional 14,000 high-level home care packages so older Australians can stay longer in their homes if they want to, at a cost of $1.6 billion, on top of the 6000 places added since the last budget;
- Pensioners can earn more without reducing their pension, with an increase of $50 per fortnight before reaching the threshold;
- Greater flexibility to use home equity to increase retirement incomes;
- An extra 13,500 residential aged care places, and 775 short-term restorative places, plus $60 million for capital investment;
- A $40 million spend on aged care facility building and maintenance in regional areas;
- Funding to improve access to culturally safe aged care services in remote Indigenous communities of $105 million.
The government is trying to tackle lax regulation of aged care homes with the recently announced the establishment of an Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and will give an additional $50 million to assist providers in implementing new standards.
Increased support services will make processes better for customers. The MyAged Care website will be improved with a spend of $62 million to make it easier to use, along with a simplification of the forms required to apply for aged care. There’ll also be a trial of “navigators” who will help people choose the right service to suit their needs.
Palliative care will get a boost of $33 million, filling current gaps, as well as $5.3 million for innovations in managing dementia and $103 million for mental health programs for older people.
People over 65 will also be assisted to do more physical activity, with local sporting organisations to receive grants of $23 million to deliver new programs.
And to help people over 50 find work, the government will provide up to $10,000 in Restart wage subsidies. A skills and training incentive will provide up to $2000 to help build skills for older Australians, alongside an advice service on the training needed to facilitate career transitions.