Is it all smoke and mirrors for Aged Care?

by Rod Campbell, Director of Research

Aged care was supposed to be a big winner in the budget. In particular, the Treasurer claimed $1.6 billion over four years would increase home care packages to help older Australians keep living in their own homes. Reading the fine print, however, this good news is hard to find.

Literally it is hard to find because home care and residential care have been combined into one line item, so readers can’t immediately compare this budget with last year’s and see all this extra funding. In the graph below I’ve combined 2017–18 budget’s separate line items and compared them with 2018–19 budget’s combined residential home care line:

Aged care: residential and home care in 2017–18 Budget and 2018–19 Budget

Hard to see this big increase in funding. In fact, 2018–19 funding for combined residential and home care is $56 million lower in this budget than was expected in the last one, as shown in the table below:

The sum of the difference between the two budgets is just $86 million, so either the $1.6 billion increase doesn’t exist, or is going from residential care into home care, or there is some other smoke-and-mirror trick at play.

Worse still, the Budget Papers show that actual numbers of Commonwealth home care packages decreased from 90,763 in 2016–17 to 87,590 in 2017–18.

The real issue here isn’t just money. Aged care, like disability care, is undergoing a massive shift from being largely run by the states to being run by the Commonwealth. This transition is tough for all the organisations involved. There is a lot of good will, but progress is slow. The Australia Institute has published research on this transition and worked closely with Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, Homeshare Australia and peak bodies to try to find solutions to some of these policy challenges.

From all of the team at The Australia Institute, thanks for reading.
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