According to the latest population trends, 38 per cent of Australian men and 55 per cent of Australian women will end up in permanent residential aged care. Fixing the broken system is a big issue for all of us, but it’s impact for women will be greater than for men.
The aged care workforce is overwhelmingly female and continues to experience inadequate pay and conditions, as well as economic insecurity for workers, - contributing to the aged care crisis through burn out, with under resourced & undervalued staff.
The Coalition has cut aged care funding by $1.7 billion, beginning in 2015-16 when Scott Morrison was Treasurer.
At the beginning 2021 some 64 per cent of private residential aged care providers were running a business loss. It will be 70 per cent by the year’s end. It is just not sustainable. Provider financial failure is a serious risk to the whole system.
There has been a horrific rise in preventable causes of hospitalisation in the five years to 2018/19, including malnourishment (spiking by 19 per cent) and falls (increasing by 24 per cent). Tragically, 685 aged care deaths from COVID occurred under this Government’s watch.
Sexual assaults in residential aged care facilities have escalated dramatically in recent years, almost doubling between 2014 and 2018. There are now 96,000 Australians on the huge wait list for Home Care Packages, over half of whom are women. In recent years, 27,278 older Australians have died while waiting for their approved home care package.
The Morrison Government also has a dismal record when it comes to supporting workers in aged care, the majority of whom are women. The Government scrapped the ground-breaking $1.5 billion workforce compact Labor had delivered in government, meaning 300,000 workers missed opportunities to upgrade their skills and qualifications.
The Government also failed to adequately support the aged care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic – leaving casual workers to fend for themselves with no access to sick leave and excluding 125,000 workers from the retention bonus payment.
This year’s Budget offers nearly $18 billion in aged care funding but still no enduring plan to fix the crisis. Many Royal Commission recommendations have not been actioned.
The announcement doesn’t include any immediate funding to solve the malnutrition crisis; doesn’t guarantee a nurse in every residential facility 24/7; and doesn’t get rid of the home care wait list. Australia still lacks a detailed plan to value and pay care workers properly and deal with huge recruitment and retention challenges ahead. There’s no strong accountability or transparency safeguards to stop price gouging and money wasting on management fees.
Experts have repeatedly stressed that to solve the aged care crisis it all comes back to workforce. The Government has categorically flunked this test in this Budget. They are cruelly letting down hundreds of thousands of Australian women in many age brackets– who both use the aged care system and deliver the care.