expectations in the Royal Commission aftermath

Released earlier this year, the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety revealed over 148 recommendations were needed to improve the aged-care sector, highlighting glaring holes that require immediate action.

The 2800-page document sparked an immediate government retaliation, with an extra $452.2 million committed to address those immediate issues. Fast-forward to today, and dubbed by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as ‘an aged care budget’, the 2021 Federal Budget should, in theory, be a springboard for listening to those recommendations and building on that initial stop-gap investment. The government has chosen to answer the report with an expected investment of $10 billion over four years, or $2.5 billion per year. And with that, we are left questioning if this investment is enough.

The Grattan Institute estimates it will take up to $7 billion per year instead of the $2.5 billion earmarked for this project. At Epicor, we also feel that the grand total of $10 billion over four years is near half of what the government should be committing to.

For reference, the report estimated that through collective decisions of successive governments, more than $9.8 billion had been cut from aged care in 2018–19.

These are troubling figures that need hard-and-fast policy to deliver real outcomes and generational change to aged care. We can’t afford to have the next generation fail to be supported by the current aged-care system in place. They are fearful of entering this system and instead more and more want to stay at home — this is an expected shift, and one the government has also committed to, but with more than 90,000 people on the home care package waiting list, clearly this is a shift the government was not quite ready for. We must ensure that home care is critical to the program.

As a technology provider to the aged-care industry, we were satisfied with the number of technology-focused recommendations that were originally put forward in the Aged Care, Quality and Safety Final Report — specifically a whole section looks at improving aged care through data, research and technology — but are left wondering if the leaked investment from the Federal Budget will be enough to satisfy all these recommendations.

We need actionable and strict deadlines in place to ensure that investment, whatever that final figure may be, is married against outcomes and objectives with regular check-in points. Deadlines and timelines ensure compliance while encouraging accountability. For instance, by 2024 we would like to have seen a new common aged-care program that combines all existing resident, respite and home care programs — providers would then benefit from a solution that keeps a single client record while being able to support operations and funding for all categories of aged care.

Upskilling and training staff, as well as offering better wages, is also key to the industry bouncing back. We must offer aged-care suppliers and staff technology solutions to assist in the digital landscape shift while encouraging them to embrace change. Smart software can assist staff according to their availability and expertise, and enables organisations to schedule the right resources based on location, skills, availability and client need.

There are existing tech-savvy home care providers implementing fully integrated and holistic software systems that are designed for home care providers — specifically, pairing it with smart technology in the homes of their clients to help in the provision of care.

And while technology is also about staying connected, investing in those who deliver care will ensure our connected hubs grow larger and more respected. Making sure people get the services they need, when they need them, from their preferred supplier can make a huge difference to the quality of care delivered.

If we are to see an investment of $10 billion across four years be delivered, it is up to us to hold that timeline to account. The future of the aged-care industry, and our own, is ticking.

*Greg O’Loan is Epicor Software’s Regional Vice President for ANZ. Epicor Software Corporation equips hard-working businesses with enterprise solutions for the aged-care, automotive, building supply, distribution, manufacturing, and retail industries. Epicor’s innovative solution sets are curated to fit customer needs and built to respond flexibly to their fast-changing reality.

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