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Thursday, 5 August 2021
Page: 22

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (12:17): [by video link] I would like to make a short contribution to the National Health Amendment (Decisions under the Continence Aids Payment Scheme) Bill 2021. The bill makes important changes to the Continence Aids Payment Scheme, otherwise known as CAPS. CAPS is an annual or six-monthly payment available to people who suffer from permanent and severe incontinence. This bill allows people to apply for an internal review or go to the AAT for decisions made by the secretary under the scheme.

One in four people in our community are affected by incontinence. Incontinence affects women, men and children of all ages; physical ability; and background. The impacts of incontinence are far-reaching and can affect a person's physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing. People who experience incontinence can suffer from shame, fear and anxiety. Older Australians are particularly impacted by incontinence. Incontinence is intensely and severely personal and often stigmatising condition that requires time and the right skills to manage appropriately.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety received a range of evidence on the prevalence and management of incontinence in residential aged-care facilities across the country. The commissioners were disturbed to hear that 71 per cent of people in residential aged care have experienced incontinence. Negative effects of incontinence can include increased risk of depression, reduced quality of life and increased risk of pressure injuries and infections. Evidence presented to the royal commission also indicated that some residential aged-care providers unintentionally contribute to incontinence by adopting flawed approaches to its management. The commissioners also heard that aged-care workers often do not have the time needed to assist residents to go to the toilet in a timely manner and incontinence pads are used to manage the workload. This is especially concerning given the number of people in residential aged care with incontinence is expected to almost double from 129,000 to over one-quarter of a million people by 2031. These factors drive up aged-care costs significantly. The estimated direct expenditure on incontinence was $1.6 billion in 2009, with 83 per cent of this on residential aged care.

It is not clear if any of the aged-care funding provided in the 2021-22 budget will be allocated to improving continence care and management as part of the government's aged-care reform agenda. The Continence Foundation of Australia has commissioned the National Ageing Research Institute to develop and test a best practice model for continence care in residential aged care.

We can improve the quality of life for people in aged care significantly and we can do it both now and into the future if people receive the best continence care. Prioritising continence care and support will improve the health, wellbeing and dignity of all people in aged care. I call on the government to implement a best practice model of continence care for residential aged care in Australia and to make sure that the funding that was allocated in this year's budget is also spent on continence care.