The government announced last Friday that the $90 million it has allocated in next year’s budget to improve rural aged care facilities will be brought forward to this financial year.
As part of the announcement, aged care providers will be able to apply for grants up to $500,000 from a $40 million fund being made available to maintain and expand their infrastructure in regional, rural and remote locations, which the government said would help bridge the urban-rural divide.
The government said this would ensure “older Australians in these locations receive the same support as people in the cities”.
A budget allocation of $50 million will also be brought forward to support aged care staff to get trained on the new Aged Care Quality Standards, which passed the Parliament on Tuesday and will come into force from 1 July, 2019.
The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said the new standards, which bring together the four previous sets of aged care standards into one document, were the first major improvement in 20 years.
The carrots are not without conditions. While the overwhelming majority of Australia’s 2700 aged care providers and 366,000 dedicated staff deliver exceptional care, the new standards are about ensuring there are no exceptions. Aged care providers can only access the benefits if they maintain their service standards to the highest possible levels. On the other hand, Legislation to establish the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will also be introduced as part of plans to centralise the government’s aged care regulatory and policing functions, a key part of the Tune and Carnell Review into the aged care sector.
In summary, opportunities are aplenty in the aged care sector as the Australian population continues to age and people live longer than ever. Despite the challenges, the sector looks set to enjoy further growth in the years to come.
By Lee Xie (Senior Project Manager)
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