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Release of Budget 2004-2004 Ageing Information Kit $533 million Budget leak.



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M E D I A S T A T E M E N T

Stephen Smith MP Acting Shadow Minister for Ageing & Seniors Member for Perth

09/04 7 May 2004

RELEASE OF BUDGET 2004-2005 AGEING INFORMATION KIT $533 MILLION BUDGET LEAK

Today I release part of the Government’s aged care measures to be contained in the Budget next week.

The detail I release relates to capital funding of over half a billion dollars.

Information entitled “Aged Care in Good Hands - Budget 2004-2005 Ageing Information Kit” from Julie Bishop MP Minister for Ageing, details changes proposed by the Government in respect of capital funding for residential aged care.

Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth than the glib title, In Good Hands. Aged care has been in neglectful hands since the Government introduced its aged care system seven years ago in 1997.

The industry and the community have had long-standing difficulties in the delivery of quality residential aged care since 1997, but constant calls from industry and the community over that seven year period have been ignored.

The Government is only acting now after ignoring this for years because there is an election only a matter of months away.

Whatever the Howard Government does now is simply a short-term political fix to get through to the election. The Government is only acting now to minimise the negative impact of its policies in time for the election.

This funding package has not been produced willingly as a result of the Government’s benevolence. It is the result of long-standing pleas from the industry and community to fix problems which threaten viability, quality of care and access.

The information shows that the Government will not introduce accommodation bonds to high care residents in aged care facilities. Mark Latham and Labor made it clear earlier this year that Labor would not introduce bonds to high care.

I am pleased that the Government has followed Labor’s lead in this regard.

The information shows instead that the Government will increase the accommodation charge for residents in high care by 17%, from $13.91 to $16.25 per day, to be indexed annually. It will apply only to new residents from 1 July 2004. This is said to inject $95 million of private contribution to capital.

As well, the five-year limit for paying the accommodation charge will be removed. Residents entering a facility from 1 July 2004 will continue paying the accommodation charge for the duration of their stay in the facility. This begs the question as to whether the Government proposes to abolish the five-year limit on accommodation bonds for low level care residents.

The Government will also increase its subsidies for concessional residents by 20%, from $13.50 to $16.25 per day, to be indexed annually.

The increase in Government subsidies is said to enhance the taxpayer contribution by $438 million.

I welcome the principle of a long awaited capital injection into residential aged care, but will wait for all the detail to be contained in the Budget before determining a view on the detail released today.

I am generally concerned that the Government is shifting the burden of higher fees to families who are already struggling. Labor does not want the Government to shift an even greater burden onto families struggling under financial pressure.

Labor believes that access to aged care services, particularly high level care, should be based on need, not just the ability of the individual to pay.

The Minister for Ageing, Julie Bishop, has refused time and time again to acknowledge these long-standing problems. For the Minister and the Government, it is like the last seven years have never existed.

As I have previously said, Labor will support any sensible proposals which are fair and which seek to relieve the pressure on the aged care system in terms of access, quality and viability.

Finally, Labor expects that the Government will release the Hogan Report in conjunction with the Budget, given that the Report has cost taxpayers over $7million in the course of its preparation.

Text from Budget Aged Care Information Kit attached.

Contact: Victoria Toulkidis on (02) 6277 4372 or 0439 994 564