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Launch of residential aged care streamlined entry package, Manningham Centre, Melbourne.



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Speech

The Hon Kevin Andrews MP Minister for Ageing

14 April 2003

Launch of Residential Aged Care Streamlined Entry Package

Manningham Centre, Melbourne

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

I am delighted to be here today to launch the Entry Pack for Residential Aged Care, which aims to streamline the process for entry to an aged care home, providing significant benefits to both prospective residents and aged care providers alike.

This is the latest initiative in a reform process that commenced in 1997, with our changes to the Aged Care Act supporting higher standards of care for older Australians.

In the seven years, since the Coalition Government was elected, expenditure on residential aged care has increased from $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion today.

Over the same period, Commonwealth expenditure for the whole aged care sector has grown from $3 billion to $5.5 billion this financial year, an increase of about 78 per cent.

It is interesting to note that the growth in the 70 and over population over the same period has been just 16.5 per cent , from 1.5 million Australians in June 1996 to 1.76 million Australians in June 2002.

The Howard Government is also meeting older people's preference to be supported in their own home and has substantially increased funding to the Home and Community Care, commonly known as the HACC Program by 59 per cent since 1995-96.

This financial year, we will provide more than $670 million of HACC services, up from $451 million in 1995/96, and we are also encouraging greater accountability, efficiency and quality assurance in this Program.

The Coalition went to the last election with a number of significant proposals including a plan to increase the total number of aged care places to 200,000 by June 2006. We are well on track to achieve this objective.

We are also on target to deliver the 6,000 additional Community Aged Care Packages promised in the 2002 Budget over the next four years.

This will bring the total number of Community Aged Care Packages to more than 34,000 by the end of June 2006, meaning many more frail, older people will be supported at home or in their community.

Overall this is the largest allocation of residential and community places ever in Australia.

We are spending an additional $100 million in capital funding over four years to help aged care homes in rural and regional Australia to upgrade and refurbish their building stock.

The first instalment of just over $30 million, has been delivered and we have also met our promise to increase residential care subsidies, providing $211 million over four years in the 2002 Budget.

Our election promise to encourage more people to enter or re-enter aged care nursing, especially in rural and regional Australia, has also been achieved with more than $26 million provided over four years in last year's Budget to fund up to 1000 aged care nursing scholarships.

And we delivered more than $21 million in the 2002 Budget to assist small aged care homes to train staff.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Howard Government is well on track in delivering its substantial package of election commitments on budget and on time. We are doing what we promised to do.

I have also set in train a number of reviews of our Aged and Community Care Programs to ensure they are well-targeted and are meeting the needs of all partners, as well as flexible enough to respond to the increasing number of people who will need care.

Residential Aged Care Streamlined Entry Package

Many residents of aged care facilities and their families have told me how stressful it can be to make the decision to enter aged care.

In a newspaper article only a couple of weeks ago, a woman who had assisted her mother to find a place in an aged care home stated that:

'You really have to take time off work to be able to visit the facilities and fill out the piles of paperwork."

She had spent the past year, sifting through paperwork and inspecting homes.

One way we are seeking to streamline and simplify this process is by improving the information available to intending residents and by reducing the complexity of the admissions process.

The Entry Pack, I am launching here today contains a comprehensive information booklet coupled with an application form that can be used to apply for a place at aged care homes in Australia.

For the first time, all prospective residents will receive the complete information they need, in one booklet, early in the process.

Where people wish to apply to more than one home, the application form can be completed once and then photocopied for the other homes.

Applicants should also save some time since the information they need is now available in a single booklet, which will be available in 14 languages later this year.

I want to assure everyone that the privacy of residents has been a key consideration in deciding on the information requested in the form, and how this information will be used by providers and governments.

Aged care providers will also benefit from the new Entry Pack as the essential information they need will be available to them on this single form. This will contribute to reducing the time spent in interviews and unnecessary paperwork allowing them to get on with the job of providing care.

The application form and booklet are based on extensive consultation and formal market research, while the project overall has been guided by a reference group of industry, consumer and aged care assessment experts.

This sort of cooperation between government and the aged care sector is allowing us to continue with our reform agenda to support our older population as it increases over the next decades.

I would like to thank everyone involved in the development of the Entry Pack and congratulate you for your contribution to this excellent product.

As many of you will know, we are also in the middle of a review of paperwork concerning the assessment and care of residents of aged care facilities.

With the launch of this new form and information booklet today, we should soon be in a position where all the paperwork involved in aged care is more user-friendly for residents and staff, and supports more efficient care.

I am sure we can all imagine a time in the not-too-distant future where much of the paperwork in aged care will be replaced by information technology, as we are beginning on the health side of the portfolio with our trials of electronic patient records and electronic prescribing.

We are not there yet, and until we do get there, we can be confident this Entry Pack provides comprehensive information and a simple, streamlined application form which will benefit prospective residents and providers of aged care in Australia.

I am delighted to launch the Entry Pack for Residential Aged Care, knowing it is one more step in our reform process to develop an efficient, high-quality and user-friendly aged care system.

ENDS