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.