By Evelyn Leckie
The Federal Government’s aged care reforms are causing concern for City of Whittlesea councillors as they grapple with the uncertain future of subsidised aged care services.
Councillors resolved to continue delivering aged care services while the Federal Government continues to fund the services until 2022.
Council agreed on developing a transition plan before December 2019 covering a range of scenarios to support council’s response to the reform.
At last week’s council meeting, councillors debated for almost two hours on possible outcomes for the elderly community, acknowledging that council might be forced to stop subsidies for aged care services.
The government is planning to bring Victoria into line with all other states by 2020 in regards to funding aged care services.
In July last year, council resolved to continue providing services including domestic assistance, personal care, respite, property maintenance, delivered meals services, social support, support for carers, Aboriginal Access and Support, volunteer co-ordination, vulnerable persons register, aged care planning, LEAP program, seniors club support and positive ageing support.
Cr Tom Joseph added Victorian councils became involved with the services because the Federal Government subsidised them.
“When someone pays their rates – they don’t expect us to pay aged care services – they expect that to go through their Federal Government through taxes,” Cr Joseph said.
“They [Federal Government] collect billions on taxes. I’m not opposed to these services – of course they’re essential – but we only collect rates.”
Cr Mary Lalios put forward a petition from 600 elderly residents who wanted council to continue funding the services.
“This council has the money to provide the services, I can’t believe these services are being cut – it’s the most measliest thing we’ve done to the most vulnerable people in our community,” Cr Lalios said.
Mayor Lawrie Cox said a plan would help council be in the best position to consider future changes as it rolls out at a federal level.
“We know this is a complicated and changing space so we need to be prepared so we have all the information to best support our residents and our staff,” he said.
Details on what will change in the sector are still unclear as the Aged Care Royal Commission is yet to deliver an interim report in October 2019 and a final report in April 2020.
Council was also advised that future legal implications may arise by subsidising services that belong to a competitive market – leaving council in possible breach of National Competition Policy.
But Australian Services Union has criticised council’s management for failing to consult with in-home aged care staff about the impending changes and also claim the National Competition Policy does not apply to in-home aged care services.
“The extension of funding to Commonwealth Home Support Program for a further two years was a positive step from the Federal Government,” union secretary Lisa Darmanin said.
“The ASU urges all councils that deliver in-home aged care services to continue delivering a high-quality service to their communities.
“With an ageing population, in-home aged care, where people can remain in their homes supported by trusted carers, is becoming more important.”