Thursday, 14 November 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Colbeck. In evidence given at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, held in Mudgee just last week, Ms Susan Hood, in speaking about her husband, Alan, said:
I would have liked to have taken him back home, but I had no option but to put him into aged care facility, because I couldn't get a package. It was 18 to 24 months before you could get a package to keep him at home.
Why wasn't Ms Hood able to access a home care package for her husband in Dubbo?
I thank the senator for the question. As I've said a number of times in the chamber, the reason that we've invested $2.2 billion into home care packages since last year's budget is that we had to continue to grow the capacity of the system. That's why we grew the number of aged-care packages by 25,000—25 per cent in the last financial year. We saw, for the first time, a fall in the waiting lists, which is what Australians were looking to see. That's why we called the royal commission—so that a forensic review of this industry would be undertaken and so that, when we designed policy going forward, it would be fit for purpose and not, as the aged-care royal commission has described, a series of add-ons over a period of time.
We take this extremely seriously. We want older Australians to be able to get the care that they need when they need it. We understand that there's further investment required coming off the back of the royal commission, which is why the government has announced that it will make additional investment in the system. But what we will also do is make sure the system works properly. We're not going to create another VET FEE-HELP. We're not going to create another pink batts exercise where the market grows so rapidly that we get shonky operators in there, and the royal commission report actually warned us against doing that. So what we will do is: we will take the appropriate policy development process, we will consider this matter carefully and we will inject—
Clearly, as I've already said a number of times, the capacity constraints in the system for home care packages need to be addressed. That's why the government, on receiving the interim report from the royal commission—particularly the instruction from the royal commission that we needed to address waiting lists for home care packages—indicated that we would make further investments in that space. We want people to be able to access the care that they need when they need it. That's our objective. That's the whole purpose of why we're undertaking this process.
Do you agree with evidence given at the royal commission hearings in Mudgee last week that older Australians wait longer for home care packages, especially higher-level packages, in remote areas and that many of these services in those contexts may not be available at all?
I think I've very clearly indicated that older Australians, whether they're in regional Australia or in metropolitan Australia, are waiting too long for home care packages. The objective of the government in its policy development work is to reduce the waiting list, a clearly stated objective. They're waiting too long. The royal commission told us that. The royal commission told us to take action, and we intend to address that. Our significant investment into home care packages—$2.2 billion since last year's budget—indicates that we take this matter seriously. We are looking to reduce the number of home care packages. We injected an increase of 25 per cent last year and saw for the first time a reduction in waiting lists. We've said that we will invest further in this space. We take this matter seriously. As I have said a number of times, we want older Australians to get the care they need.