Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has called for public sector and not-for-profit community care agencies to be preserved in any reforms to the aged care system.
The association said it was critical that the needs of vulnerable people who rely on community care services, who remain living in their own homes are not undermined by the proposed centrally managed, market-based national service system.
Councillor Bill McArthur, MAV president said it was disappointing the Productivity Commission draft report into Caring for Older Australians hadn’t given sufficient weight to the high quality home and community care services already provided by local government in Victoria.
“Councils are currently the largest public sector provider of community care for elderly Victorians and people with a disability,” he said.
“Far from operating for profit, local government has voluntarily contributed 33 per cent or over $100 million a year to the overall cost of commonwealth-state aged care programs delivered by councils. “
According to Cr McArthur when a family wishes to receive care for their elderly parent, they can currently go to a council for their assessment and service delivery.
“The Productivity Commission is proposing a central assessment and allocation of dollars to an individual who is then left to choose their own service provider/s,” he said.
“While councils have traditionally plugged the growing funding and service gaps, some may choose to opt out as service providers. Reforms proposed by the Productivity Commission could leave the system exposed.
Cr McArthur said councils played an additional unique role in linking elderly Victorians to other healthy ageing, recreation, health and social programs that keep them active in the community.
“It’s discouraging that no mechanism is proposed to connect with State and local government service planning, which is critical for improving overall health and wellbeing and ensuring community needs are met,” he said.
Community care is the key aged care program for more than 50 per cent of those aged over 75 who live at home.
It provides basic cleaning, delivered meals, personal care, home maintenance and other services to help older people age with dignity in the community.
Victoria has about 200,000 HACC clients, with more than 70 per cent also receiving a pension.
Cr McArthur said that while the MAV had challenged a number of assumptions by the Productivity Commission, some of the reform proposals were supported, including the need for a costs review and scheduled prices.
“The community aged care system has been chronically under-funded for decades, with concerning levels of un-met needs,” he said.
“Pricing that reflects actual service delivery costs is long overdue."
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