Abbott Government fails to launch on aged care

Joint media release with the Hon. Shayne Neumann, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Shadow Minister for Ageing, Member for Blair.

The Abbott Government’s disinterest and lack of leadership have put Labor’s historic aged care reform program at risk.

The Commonwealth Home Support Program, which came into effect today, has been fraught with problems because of the Abbott Government’s inability to deliver the Living Longer Living Better reforms in a timely manner.

The home support program was meant to provide a nationally-consistent approach to support services so older Australians can continue to live in their own homes and communities.

The Living Longer Living Better reforms, legislated by Labor in April 2013, provided a timetable and a road map for the delivery of significant changes in the aged care sector. This would ensure aged care remains of a high quality, is fair and financially sustainable into the future.

All the Abbott Government had to do was oversee their implementation. Instead, aged care was dumped onto an Assistant Minister who is already tied up with delivering another of Labor’s major reforms, the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Major elements of the home support program’s implementation have been pushed back three years to 2018. At the same time, the development of a nationally-consistent pricing structure has been downgraded to a principle-based ‘policy’ due sometime this month.

To date, there is no indication of when these guidelines can be expected.

Basically the only part of the Commonwealth Home Support Program the Abbott Government has delivered on time was the new name.

Another change taking effect today is the transitioning of all Home Care Packages to Consumer Directed Care, giving older Australians more choice and flexibility about the way aged care services are delivered at home.

This is a welcome move, but it is alarming that the Assistant Minister has flagged further reforms to Consumer Directed Care before the current changes are delivered and bedded down.

If the Abbott Government cannot manage reforms which are already in train, how can we trust them with the future reform?

It is clear that Tony Abbott has no interest in the wellbeing and needs of older Australians, today or into the future.