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Federal Budget 2021-2022: will that be enough?

Written by Lauranne Beernaert, Sector Support Coordinator

The Commonwealth Treasurer presented the 2021-2022 Federal Budget on the 11 May 2021.  With a commitment of $17.7 billion in Aged Care over five years, the Budget has the potential to start the process to reform the system.

Read the Government’s full response here, and explore the views of different stakeholders here.

Aged Care Budget Snapshot

Home Care – $7.5 billion

  • 80,000 more Home Care Packages
  • New Support at Home programme (combining CHSP, HCP, Short-Term Restorative Care, and residential respite programs)
  • Increased support for informal and family carers
  • Increased Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission checks

Governance – $698 million

  • A new Aged Care Act
  • Support to aged care providers to improve their governance and meet stronger legislative obligations
  • A new Inspector-General of Aged Care, Council of Elders and National Aged Care Advisory Council

Residential Aged Care Sustainability – $7.8 billion

  • $10 Basic daily fee supplement per resident
  • Regular reporting to inform Star Rating System between facilities
  • Improved primary care support and continuity between aged care and health care systems
  • Mandatory care time and staffing minutes per resident

Residential Aged Care Quality & Safety – $942 million

  • 1,500 additional site audits
  • Enforced regulation of restraint use
  • Increased funding for Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service and Severe Behaviour Response Teams
  • Specialist dementia training

Workforce – $652 million

  • Additional incentives for registered nurses
  • Single assessment workforce
  • Upskill the workforce through scholarships, trainings for Certificate III and palliative and dementia training.
  • Establishment of code of conduct, national pre-employment screening and workers’ register
  • National campaign to attract new workers

Click here to download a detailed infographic outlining the changes of the next 5 years.

Additionally, it is worth noting that the Government will remove the current $450 per month minimum income threshold for the superannuation guarantee. This new measure is expected to enter into force from 1 July 2022 and will benefit people with casual or part-time jobs who will now qualify to have super set aside for their retirement.

Key figures of the Budget

Our Workforce, our greatest asset

The Government has indicated that the increase in award wages is currently under consideration by the Fair Work Commission, and that this is independent of Government. We do not know how long this process will take, and we do not know whether it will lead to a positive outcome for our under-valued workforce.  With our borders closed and no new entrants to the country until mid-2022, how do we retain existing staff and attract new staff?

Unfortunately, this means that once again, we will have to stretch our already stretched human, financial and organisational resources. Acknowledging these constraints, we invite the Sector to consider the below suggestions:

  • Organisational Culture is a key element when retaining staff and hiring new ones, and a positive culture is closely connected with quality and safe care. If you have not done it already, have you taken the time to check in with your staff and reflect on your organisation’s values and behaviours? Your Sector Support team explored why it is important and suggested some ideas in their last article about Leadership.
  • What is a ‘Good Quality Job’? While wages do play a role in job satisfaction, it is not the only factor. The Quality Jobs Quality Care Project developed in partnership with several Australian Universities and Aged Care industry partners explores what a Good Quality Job is and offers innovative workplace tools, models and benchmarks to improve job and service quality. These can be accessed here.
  • Focus on supervision and development of staff. Working in aged care is a rewarding and meaningful work, but is also physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding. Many frontline workers regret that they have little to no contact with their managers, which makes them feel that they are not valued or supported (to read more click here). Consider manager to employee’s ratios that enable regular check-ins, discussion, debrief, client review, coaching, and training needs. Sometimes a quick but regular chat with each worker can go a long way.
  • Connect, partner and learn from other organisations. Despite the highly competitive nature of the Sector and the tendency to work individually, maybe it is time for us to connect with other organisations and learn from what they do best.
  • Partner with businesses to show that staff are valued. Through its wide media coverage, the findings of the Royal Commission have shocked the Australian public. Many have also read and heard about the commitment and dedication of Aged Care workers during the COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. This increased awareness about the Aged Care crisis might be a good incentive for private organisations and businesses to do their bit and show their appreciation to aged care workers. Perhaps the fitness centre next to your head office would be willing to sell heavily discounted gym passes? Would the coffee shop in your street agree to offer an ‘Aged Care rate’? Perhaps a local business would like to donate a gift basket/dinner voucher for an annual employee or volunteer recognition award? It all starts with a conversation.

The Aged Care budget and its reforms will be rolled-out within a 5-year period. While some of the initiatives will start this year, the majority of the reforms will be introduced in 2022/2023. This means that CHSP and HCP providers need to start preparing for these changes now. In the next E-bulletins, your Sector Support Team will be focusing on the implications of these changes and support you to understand, plan for, and be innovative to successfully adapt to this new Aged Care environment.