Budget ignores aged care needs - CWA of NSW calling for urgent action, meaningful policy initiatives

Assistance for aged care announced in last night’s Federal Budget has been labelled “totally inadequate” by the Country Women’s Association (CWA) of NSW, describing it is yet another missed opportunity to bring about meaningful change in a sector in crisis.

“We were hoping that given everything that has come to light around aged care facilities, staffing levels and wages in the past few years – which has included the devastating impact of COVID-19 and a Royal Commission – there would be some real initiatives, and the funding support to back those initiatives, in the Budget last night,” said CWA of NSW President Stephanie Stanhope.

“But, today, we are left disappointed and frustrated, and aged care residents, their families and staff have been let down once again.”

Stephanie said last year’s final report from the latest Royal Commission into the industry should have been the catalyst for urgent change, but 12 months on there were still chronic workplace shortages, an unacceptably high number of deaths from COVID-19, and evidence that residents were still living in substandard facilities or were having difficulty accessing care in the first place.

In rural and regional communities, the issues are even more acute. Stephanie said the town of Bombala, in the state’s Monaro region, was currently fighting to keep its one aged care facility after aged care provider Southern Cross Care NSW and ACT announced it would close its facilities in both Bombala and Swansea, south of Newcastle, due to staff shortages.

Following last month’s flooding in the NSW’s Northern Rivers, there were reports of aged care residents sleeping on the floors of other facilities after their own accommodation had been impacted by the floodwaters – weeks after the initial inundation.

The CWA of NSW is also calling for urgent action around increasing wages for workers in the aged care sector, saying last night’s budget may have included some funding for training, but nothing to improve wage levels.

“Action on workforce measures were among the key recommendations from the Royal Commission but is not being addressed, meaning the sector will continue to struggle to attract and retain the staff it needs to provide the level of care needed by older Australians. More money for training is one thing but if you don’t have the incentives there to attract people in the first place, then it doesn’t count for very much.

“In a country like Australia we must do more. Our vulnerable older citizens deserve so much better than this and deserve political leaders who take the issue seriously and can propose an ambitious and innovative aged care policy platform that actually responds to this worsening crisis rather than just paying lip service,” Stephanie said.


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