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Commission hears of aged care challenges

The royal commission into aged care has heard of looming funding challenges for the sector as the number of elderly and number of people with dementia grows

Growing demand for aged care services will provide future funding challenges for the federal government, the aged care royal commission has heard.

Commonwealth Health Department Secretary, Glenys Beauchamp, said that the funds allocated by the government are sufficient enough to meet current aged care demands including those forecast across the forward estimates.

But she added that the government will have to review how it meets future needs, due to predictions that there will be some challenges to address.

“For example, the number of people wanting to live at home will grow. The number of people with dementia will grow and the number of people accessing the aged care system in the future will grow,” Beauchamp said.

Under the current funding breakdown, the federal government covers 70 per cent of the cost of both residential and home care expenses with the rest funded by customer contributions. More money goes to fund residential care, even though the number of people housed in care facilities is 18 per cent of the total number receiving assistance.

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Asked if the system currently met consumer needs, Beauchamp said the department continued to focus on improving “how we do our business” and that reviews in the past had reported that the quality of care was of good standard.

“Of course, I acknowledge there may be considerable hotspots and areas of special needs where we need to improve the services provided,” she said.

The commission head evidence that under the mechanism used to provide funding to service providers before recent changes had resulted in “maximising their revenue”.

Changes made to funding mechanisms had resulted in some cuts, but Beauchamp said there had been no assessment of any impact on quality and safety of residents.

The royal commission is investigating both the quality and safety of both residential and home care across the country. It will sit in Adelaide this week but also take evidence at further hearings planned for interstate capitals as well as regional centres.

It has already received 800 public submissions and responses from about 900 of Australia’s 2,000 approved aged care providers.

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