Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s delivery of the 2021 Federal Budget earlier this month may not have been at the top of your must-watch list… and fair enough. But there were some important messages for those of us invested in the aged care system and for older Australians generally.
It is indeed pleasing for members of the Mable community to see the words, choice and control, front and centre in the aged care budget news. Here’s our brief round-up of the budget news for you in five easy bites.
More home care packages
The big, welcome news for those of us wanting to age well at home was a package of $7.5 billion for home care with $6.5 billion of that going toward 80,000 new home care packages over the next two years. There will be 40,000 packages released in each of the financial years 2021-22 and 2022-23. While there will be a period of time to scale up and release these packages, it will certainly make a difference to the lengthy waiting times from the middle of this year.
A stronger consumer voice
There is also funding for some new governance structures to improve the design and accountability of the whole aged care system. Under that umbrella, the proposed high level ‘Council of Elders’ is a welcome initiative. Made up of diverse older Australians themselves, the Council will consult widely with other older people and advise the Minister and Department on all aspects of aged care from the perspective of the rights and dignity of older people. No details yet, but it sounds like an opportunity for many of us to have a voice and ensure dignity, choice and control remain front and centre in the aged care system. We will let you know how to apply, just as soon as we know!
A new Aged Care Act
On the rights of older Australians, the good news is that funding has been made available to commence work immediately on the new ‘consumer-focused’ Aged Care Act which is fundamental to the rest of the reforms. The Government says, “all Australians deserve an aged care system that places their needs and wellbeing at its centre” and that the reforms will “ensure senior Australians have access to high quality and safe care services, are empowered to have more control and choice in their care arrangements and are treated with dignity and respect.” Expect it in a year, at the soonest.
According to budget documents, it is intended to commence from 1 July 2023, subject to parliamentary processes and members of the new Council of Elders and National Aged Care Advisory Council will have input.
More for the aged care system
Other welcome aged care measures in this budget include $798.3 million to better support informal carers, or family members; and a plan to streamline the process of aged care assessments into one system. Funds for much needed improvements to the myagedcare website and for more face-to-face information services, including in regional areas, promise to make the system a bit easier to navigate.
Important other news
In superannuation and pensions, there are a few improvements to report including:
- the removal of the “work test” for Australians aged 67 to 74 that made it very difficult for self-funded retirees to top up their super savings;
- lowering the age for accessing the ‘downsizer to super’ scheme from 65 to 60, which will enable more of us to boost our super savings if we downsize our home;
- the opportunity for anyone trapped in a restrictive ‘legacy’ superannuation product to transition to a more flexible option;
- and no change in tax rates for age pensioners
At the same time, there are improvements to the Pension Loan Scheme –the Government’s reverse mortgage scheme that can help you boost your retirement income by drawing down on your home or other real estate assets. There is a new ‘No Negative Equity Guarantee’ for the loans as well as the ability for people to access a capped advance lump sum payment.
In this first ‘normal’ budget since the start of the pandemic there is no shying away from spending, with generally good news for women, for mental health and other health spending, as well as lenience in retaining last year’s temporary tax-offset for low and middle income earners.
Some reasons to be cheerful, whatever our age and stage.
Source – Budget 2021–22: Generational change and record investment in the health of Australians – media release: Office of Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Greg Hunt MP https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-greg-hunt-mp/media/budget-2021-22-generational-change-and-record-investment-in-the-health-of-australians