Thanks for inviting me to be with you today at the 25th Tri-State Conference.

It’s great to have so many people who are as interested in and passionate about aged care as I am, in my home town.

It’s been about 6 months since aged care came “home” to the health portfolio.  Important, because I believe we can support older Australians – and their carers – better with aged care in a portfolio that includes health.

But of course, aged care is not all about health. The Government has made great progress in aged care over the past three years.

We have progressively been addressing the issues and weaknesses in the system identified by the widely supported Productivity Commission 2011 report Caring for Older Australians.  

Some initiatives were started by the previous government but this Government has landed those changes and is going further.  We are moving the system more in line with the Productivity Commission’s recommendations – as industry has indicated should occur.

I just want to outline some of the key changes to date.

In January this year, the Government transferred responsibility for the aged care complaints scheme from the Department of Health to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner creating a more independent and robust approach to complaints.

The My Aged Care Gateway is now supporting people to find their way through the aged care system and, despite some initial difficulties, is now undertaking assessments for those people who need low level care at home.  It is increasing its role as the one identifiable place to go for information and support to access aged care.

There has been significant work on addressing inconsistency and inequity in the pricing and consumer contributions to the cost of their care.

We are also continuing our work on expanding flexible aged care initiatives with the establishment of the Short-Term Restorative Care Program to help people regain maximum independence, when they have experienced difficulties.

The aim is to make it easier for people to stay independent and living in their own homes longer. Places will progressively become available with at least 2,000 being available by 2021.

Work is also occurring to develop and deliver the best possible dementia support in aged care services.

Care of people with dementia is absolutely core business for aged care with approximately 50 per cent of all aged care residents having dementia.

They are some of the most vulnerable people in our community and it’s so important that we get the mix of support services right.

We need a truly national approach to better align the services we provide.

Which is why Government has decided to establish a single national provider to deliver Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Services.

This will complement the Severe Behaviour Response Teams which have been operating for about three months now.  In that time they have responded to more than 100 cases and we are hearing positive feedback about their work.

These are all positive achievements which have, in the most part, been successfully implemented due to support from the industry.

I want to acknowledge LASA’s input into many of these initiatives as I turn to the future.

Government has been keen to know what industry sees as its vision and future.

So it tasked the Aged Care Sector Committee with developing the Aged Care Roadmap – to investigate and prioritise what more needs to be done.  The Roadmap has been provided to me and will inform future policy discussions and formation.

The Roadmap continues the theme of moving aged care to a market based system, giving consumers choice and allowing providers to run their own services.

This is central to the Government’s plan for the future.

The aged care system in Australia is world class and well respected, with high quality services that reach and meet the needs of a very diverse population.

However, as people are living longer thanks to better health and better health care, the demands on Australia’s aged care system are changing.  Older Australians want more choice and control over the care they receive.  This demand will only increase as the “Boomers” and future generations require aged care services.

I was pleased to introduce the Aged Care Amendment Bill – which will give consumers more choice about home care packages –  into Parliament last sitting week.

This game changing legislation means that from February 2017, home care packages will be allocated to assessed consumers who will be able to direct Government funding to the provider of their choice.  Even more importantly they will have the flexibility to change their provider if they want to or if they move to another area or state they can take their package with them.

Once these changes come into effect, providers will no longer have to apply for home care places through the Aged Care Approvals Round, significantly reducing red tape for businesses.  And I’m sure many of you will be pleased about that!

Industry input into the policy perameters in the Bill was invaluable and I want to thank LASA who contributed to this through its representation on both the working group that looked specifically at this measure and also on the Aged Care Sector Committee which had a number of discussions on the policy.

Home care reform will continue into 2018 with Government having clearly signalled its intention to move to a single, integrated care at home programme.  This will provide an opportunity to explore different funding and service delivery models, including activities that promote restorative care and firmly put the consumer in control.

Residential care needs to be the next area of reform.

It’s  my view that service providers should be able to make business decisions about where to build a residential care service; and then allow them to attract customers through price and service.

While we are discussing residential care it would be remiss of me not to mention the $150 million overspend in the ACFI last year.

It has been suggested that this occurred as a result of frailty growth.  However, Government data shows that growth in claims is restricted to the complex health care domain while other ACFI funded domains have not increased anywhere near the same amount despite also being affected by increasing frailty. A sharp increase in one year is also not consistent with frailty growth.

As I’m sure you are all aware Government is managing considerable financial pressures in the interest of our long term economic health.  And part of that means that aged care expenditure must remain within its allocated, but growing, budget.

At MYEFO Government introduced a stronger compliance regime, including fines for repeated false claims, and better targeting of funding to start to bring expenditure back within budget.

I want to work with industry to ensure there is certainty in residential aged care funding.

Ensuring quality services for people in rural and remote areas is an issue I am more than aware of as the local member for Farrer.

So I have been looking into the issue of financing of rural and remote aged care.  I recently received a report from the Aged Care Financing Authority which highlights that rural and remote providers do face additional challenges.  The report found that the viability supplement, which Government increased by 20% in 2014, is well targeted and supports service viability.

The report also showed that about one third of rural and remote providers have good financial results equal to or better than metropolitan services.

But there is no doubt that Government needs to consider how best to support rural and remote providers continue to offer local services.

Workforce is an important issue.  I’m aware of recent industry media on this and Government’s role in the development of a workforce strategy.  I want to take this opportunity to confirm that Government will assist with the development of a workforce strategy – as it said it would.   My Department is working through the details of how this will work now and more information will be available shortly.

But I also want to be clear that the primary responsibility for workforce rests with providers.  This was the rationale for returning the $1.5bn that Labor had used to create the Workforce Supplement to the industry in the 2014 budget.  Aged care providers are in the best place to determine workforce needs and manage their workforce.

Finally I want to touch on the issue of quality in Aged Care.

We have an accreditation system in place which focusses on this safety of the older person and the subsequent compliance of providers. Yet this is only a part of what quality is. Quality is really defined by the individual’s experience and expectations.

I want Australia’s aged care system to have an approach to quality that understands and anticipates what’s important to the individual.

A quality facility and service should be one that exceeds the consumers expectations – not one that is simply safe and compliant.  That should be a given.

And then consumers need to be able to find the services that are going to deliver on what is important to them.

Which is why I want the My Aged Care gateway to be more like Trip Advisor.  It’s my intention to make this style of information progressively available on My Aged Care to help older people make their important life decisions.

As a Government, we have made a commitment to move towards a consumer driven, market based, sustainable aged care system.

We have taken some very significant steps towards transforming aged care in Australia.

We’re not there yet but we are on the way and I look forward to working with you to help make this a reality.