Funding is not the problem

HeraldSun 4 April 2022

I have spent six years trying to improve the aged care system on behalf of older people and families. This has been done as an unpaid advocate with no government funding.

The aged care system is broken. Numerous inquiries, including a royal commission, have revealed evidence of poor care, negligence, neglect, abuse and assault.

We know what needs to be done. The solution to the crisis starts with transparency and accountability. 

I have become a stuck record in my calls for the federal government to demand transparency from the aged care providers in return for the billions of taxpayers’ dollars they get each year – some $125 billion over the next five years.

Take the latest example. The May 2021 budget gave providers an extra $10 a day per resident to improve the quality of the meals. Some $460 million has already been spent, with an estimated $700 million to be spent this financial year. And what do providers have to do in return? Simply give an undertaking that they will report to government on a quarterly basis what they spend on food.

The royal commissioners had warned that aged care providers have a long history of not spending extra government money on what they are supposed to. So why give them a further $700 million without directly tying this money to food?

Many residents have told me they are still being served unappetising food. It seems many providers have not used this extra money on what they were supposed to.

The Aged Care Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck claim that “the Morrison Government has achieved significant reform across the five pillars of its five-year plan to deliver respect, care and dignity for every senior Australian”.

“We responded to the (Aged Care royal commissioners’) recommendations and are now implementing this once-in-a-generation reform that puts senior Australians first,” Minister Hunt said.

Seriously? There has been practically no progress on most of the recommendations one year after the royal commissioners released their final report.

Labor has proposed some measures to improve aged care in Australia. However so much more is needed to solve the crisis in aged care.

The failure of successive governments to respond meaningfully to the crisis in aged care has prompted me to put my hand up to replace the Aged Care Minister in his seat of Flinders. After years of advocating from the sidelines, it is clear aged care needs a strong advocate in parliament. 

Dr Sarah Russell is the Voices endorsed Independent Candidate.

Protecting older people’s vote

On 27 November, I tweeted “The seat of Mornington is on a knife’s edge because postal votes favour Liberals. e.g. some aged care homes and retirement villages provide ONLY Liberal HTV Cards. At my mother’s aged care home, ONLY the Lib candidate was allowed to visit during the election campaign.

Many people with similar experiences replied to my tweet. These quotes provide anecdotal evidence that the disparity of candidates’ access to aged care homes and retirement villages has a long history.

Similar experience

Can confirm this. We were knocked back from speaking to residents in several aged care homes, and even prevented from doorknocking. I believe the Liberal candidate had early knowledge of where the mobile voting centres (voting busses in aged care centres) would be too.

Heard so many accounts of this in Kooyong in (the) 2019 election (when) working for Oliver Yates. Lots of voters told us about this in a range of nursing homes in the area.

Same thing happened during the federal election. That’s a lot of votes – more than enough to win. It needs to be changed. I don’t want any bias to any candidate.

(Kerryn) Phelps lost her seat by less than the number of votes that were cast by a facility in her electorate that had a major turn out by the residents to vote for Sharma.

Saw this here in Sydney at aged care facilities during the federal election. It feels like vote harvesting.

This is also an issue in Hawthorn electorate where there are many aged care homes.

That was a tactic during the federal election as well. (The) VEC must ensure this bias does not happen in future. It’s illegal, in my opinion.

That has happened in my electorate in Federal elections.

I live in suburban Adelaide, where a lot of residents are in nursing homes and retirement villages, including my mother-in-law. Liberals sent out forms to request postal voting with their own material in the same envelope. So the oldies thought (the) AEC endorsed the Libs.

This is nothing new

When my parents were alive, (living in) RSLLifecare. They received only Liberal HTV mail, and only the Liberal candidate visited.

This is nothing new. When I stood against Peter Reith in Flinders in the 1990s, a particular retirement village asked Peter Reith to speak. When I found out about this, I approached them (to speak). But they refused. They said it was a personal invite.

It’s been happening for years, nothing is ever done about it.

When I ran I was not allowed in the aged care home at all. One home did allow me to drop off HTV cards to her and she said she would put them on the table. I later found out she was a member of LNP and had sought to be the candidate at that election but had lost to the actual candidate. So perhaps she didn’t even put my HTVs on the table.

This issue has been known about and reported to the AEC and VEC election after election. They don’t do anything.

I worked in an aged care facility on the Gold Coast in 2007. I wheelchaired a resident to vote, she was told that (staff) had already voted for her. Both resident and I were furious. This behaviour has been going on for years.

In 2019 election, we put our flyers in each residents’ post box at the retirement village. Our flyers were removed.

I’ve heard anecdotally that the incapacitated are “assisted” to vote by relatives or home management, and that staff at the aged care home fill in the ballots.

Assisting older people to vote

Way back last century I watched as nursing home residents had their ballots completed by staff at a desk, no residents present or consulted.

One [aged care home] even allowed Liberal Party paid “volunteers” to “help” the nursing home residents vote in the booth!

Where I work there are “helpful” people who visit and assist with voting. There isn’t enough staff so homes are grateful. I reported it when told by a few residents that the person told them who to vote for.

Don’t forget the Liberal volunteers who go in to nursing homes to “help” them fill out their forms. I had the pleasure of removing one of these hags when she attempted to fill out the form on behalf of my Mum. Mum was in late stage Alzheimers & non-verbal at that time.

A few years ago a Sandringham aged care home signed my father up (to vote) for the 1st time in 40yrs, despite (him having) no capacity.