Seniors advocates have warned the federal budget boost for 23,000 home-care packages is nowhere enough to ease immense waiting list pressure.
The Morrison government will spend $1.6 billion on packages to ease the burden on some of the more than 100,000 people waiting for services at home.
National Seniors chief advocate Ian Henschke accused the government of missing an opportunity to address the issue.
“The waiting list has been described by our very own CEO, Professor John McCallum, as a running sore and this announcement is a bandaid which barely covers the wound,” he said.
Mr Henschke said it was disappointing there were not more measures to make residential aged care providers accountable.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck defended the home-care increase, saying it would mean 30,000 new packages during the financial year.
“Last night’s allocation, over the next 12 months will make a significant change to those who are waiting for a home-care package,” he told parliament on Wednesday.
He said the level of packages had risen 20 per cent since he became the minister.
Crossbench senator Stirling Griff said 30,000 people had died in the past three years while on the waiting list.
“Percentages aren’t people. When you look at real numbers, 30,000 is a long way away from meeting 100,000,” he said.
Senator Griff also questioned why there were only 2000 high-level care packages included in the budget announcement.
“The government has allocated the packages to the areas where they will most quickly reduce waiting lists,” the minister replied.
Labor’s aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins demanded the government explain how many of the home care packages were new.
She said “23,000 ‘additional’ packages is just a drop in the ocean – more older Australians died than this waiting for care in the last three years alone.”
Aged and Community Services Australia welcomed the increase but warned the sector would need more money.
“It is only a drop in the bucket of what is required,” the group said.
“This is good bang for the buck, however, there will still be thousands of people waiting for the right level of support or any support at all.”
Nurses’ union secretary Annie Butler said the 23,000 places would do little to reduce the number of elderly people waiting more than 12 months for a package.
A royal commission’s interim report slammed the federal government’s preparedness for coronavirus in aged care homes.
That prompted an initial $40.6 million to meet urgent recommendations, but more is expected to be spent after the final report is handed down in February.
Tuesday’s budget also included two $250 payments for aged pensioners after the linked inflation level stalled an increase.