Senate debates

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Questions without Notice

Aged Care

2:32 pm

Tammy Tyrrell (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is for the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Aged Care, Minister Gallagher. Minister, there are a lot of elderly people in my neck of the woods who rely on community carers to get transport to and from doctor appointments, mow their lawns and clean their houses. Like all of us, the people running community care are paying more on fuel, wages, insurance and rent, but the funding for home-care packages and the Commonwealth Home Support Program is only going up 1.7 per cent this year. How does your government expect community care providers to survive on so little?

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank Senator Tyrrell for the question. I think it's your first question, Senator Tyrrell, so congratulations on that. I appreciate the heads-up you gave on this as well.

You raised the issue of support for home care and community care services and the indexation rate. This is an issue that has been raised with me in my role as the Minister for Finance, not just from an aged-care point of view but for the majority of those working in the non-government sector at the moment, so this is something that I am looking at closely. There are a range of different ways that indexation applies across payments and programs, and there are even differences between particular programs getting indexed differently, so I am having a close look at that. My understanding is that the Department of Health and Aged Care is aware of the issue. They're working with the sector and looking at a range of approaches to manage some of these impacts on service provision. I would say that there has been significant investment into the service system over the last couple of years, but the government accepts that, with inflation running as high as it is, that is having costs on services. It's a matter I'm looking at as the Minister for Finance.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Tyrrell, first supplementary?

2:34 pm

Tammy Tyrrell (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

We have organisations in Tasmania who say they'll have to close up shop within the next couple of months. They can't afford to survive. Will the government consider emergency funding to keep the lights on for community care?

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I would say, if there are organisations that are in that position, I hope that they would be actively engaging with the Department of Health and Aged Care in particular—or the relevant department from which they receive their funding. As I said, there are a range of different indexation arrangements across government. The government would not want to see essential community services cease providing services. They are essential, particularly in areas where there might not be choice of service as well, where restrictions are there just because of the nature of the service system. I would say the government doesn't want to see any of those services close based on escalating costs, and we would ask that the organisations engage either with the department or with the minister's office.

Photo of Sue LinesSue Lines (President) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Tyrrell, a second supplementary?

2:35 pm

Tammy Tyrrell (Tasmania, Jacqui Lambie Network) Share this | | Hansard source

Minister, residential aged care is getting a 10 per cent increase in funding in October, but the new Australian National Aged Care Classification won't apply to organisations who help older Australians in their family home. Why shouldn't community care get the same support as residential care?

2:36 pm

Photo of Katy GallagherKaty Gallagher (ACT, Australian Labor Party, Minister for the Public Service) Share this | | Hansard source

I would say, yes, residential aged care gets a lot of, I think, public attention, but the government accepts that home care and community care are an essential part of our service system for supporting older Australians. It has received increases in funding. I would note that since we've come to government we have delayed the implementation for the new in-home aged-care program by 12 months because we had been getting feedback from people about it being too rigid to support older Australians and the conditions and circumstances and the nature of house support provided. So that is something that we're doing, and we will consult widely and talk to all of those organisations about the best way forward. But our position is that we need that extra 12 months. That's in line with the royal commission. And, whilst there are significant resources—I think in the order of over $6 billion a year—going into home care at the moment— (Time expired)