20 Apr 2012

Aust gives baby-boomers a $NZ4.7b boost

10:07 pm on 20 April 2012

Australia's government has released a $NZ4.7 billion aged-care package which it says will help keep older people in their homes longer.

By 20-50, it is forecast that more than three-and-a-half million Australians are expected to use aged care services each year, the ABC reports.

Aged care providers, consumers and unions have all warmly welcomed the aged care reform package and they say it is a substantial first step in giving older Australians the sort of care they want and making the system more sustainable.

Sweeping changes involve means-testing of home care from July 2014, but Minister for Ageing Mark Butler told PM demand for aged care services is only going to increase.

"This is the beginning of building an aged care system for the 21st century, rather than trying to work with a system that was built in the 1980s," he said.

Ian Yates from the Council on the Ageing says everyone in Australia's aged care industry has been waiting a long time for the Government's announcement.

"This is a very big beginning. This is the end of the process of pushing for major aged care reform," he says.

ABC reports the $A3.7 billion measures announced include:

    [L1] Home care assistance packages will be doubled from $A59,876 to almost $A100,000.

    [L2] Home care and residential care fees will be capped at $A 60,000 for a person's lifetime

    [L3] $A660 million to provide more residential aged care facilities

    [L4] $A268 million to fight what the Government calls the nation's dementia epidemic

    {L5] $A1.2 billion to help employers improve working conditions for staff

One of the biggest elements of the package is $1.2 billion to improve the pay of aged care workers and to look at ways to make it a more attractive career option.

The Australian Government says the overhaul is aimed a shifting the emphasis of the aged care system from residential to community care.

That will be particularly important for the increasing number of Australians expected to be diagnosed with dementia, a problem for which the package allocates almost $A270 million.

In New Zealand - where the nation's baby-boomers are just entering the 65+ population - demographers have forecast an 80 percent increase between now and 2033 in the numbers of people aged over 65. Some politicians have advocated raising the NZ age of pension entitlement to 67 years by 2033.