April News Watch – calls for aged care reform not fading and calls for financial transparency get louder

When we set out and founded Aged Care Reform Now the findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety had not yet been tabled.

With 18+ inquiries into aged care before the 2021 Royal Commission we were wary that the public would lose interest, and that the media would move on. So it is heartening to see Aged Care and the need for reform still in the news.

John Hewson, professor at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy and former Liberal opposition leader wrote that the recent residential aged care closures by Wesley Mission should not come as “a ‘shock’ announcement” nor “attributed to ‘“workplace pressures’ imposed by the Albanese government’s industry reforms.” He rightly argues that there are no quick wins for what is a genuine crisis.

https://www.thesaturdaypaper.com.au/2023/04/22/aged-care-should-not-weary-them

Hewson goes on to say:

“it should be recognised that many charitable and religious organisations originally went into the aged-care industry with the expectation that it would produce healthy cash surpluses that they could then draw on to help fund their other religious and pastoral care objectives”.

This question of financial transparency was raised by Henry Belot in The Guardian, citing analysis by Jason Ward of the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/26/aged-care-analyst-warns-of-alarming-lack-of-transparency-in-how-churches-spend-government-grants

Ward did not dispute many providers need more funds, but accused some providers of “crying poor” and misleading the public about their finances. “Before additional funding is provided, there needs to be far greater transparency and accountability to ensure spending improves care rather than increase profits or fund expansion and development,” Ward said.

Aged care analyst warns of ‘alarming lack of transparency’ in how churches spend government grants, The Guardian, 26 April, 2023

And Anna Willis, from our own Aged Reform Now organising committee was quoted in The Guardian speaking about the need for financial transparency in aged care.

Anna Willis, a solicitor with advocacy group Aged Care Reform Now, said it still wasn’t clear whether government funds set aside to improve the quality of food in residential aged care were being spent appropriately. “That was additional revenue given directly to providers, $10 per person, per day, and we’re still waiting to see the expense trail,” Willis said. “Some of the people who we’ve been communicating with have not seen any difference in the food. Where is the funding going?”

Australian aged care providers warned against hiking fees for wealthy without proving it goes towards care, The Guardian, 27 April, 2023

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2023/apr/26/australian-aged-care-providers-warned-against-hiking-fees-for-wealthy-without-proving-it-goes-towards-care

The government is yet to implement anything in regards to financial transparency in the aged care sector — something that we will continue to demand. These are tax funded dollars after all.

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