The Financial Sustainability Summit, held at Old Parliament House, brings together experts from aged care providers, unions, consumer groups, academics, and policy specialists to explore sustainable funding models over the next few decades.
Tom Symondson, CEO of the Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), emphasised the urgent need for changes in aged care funding, citing the challenges posed by a rapidly ageing population and a shrinking taxpayer base.
“As a sector we want aged care providers to deliver the highest quality care and support to older Australians so that they can live their best lives. It is what they deserve,” Symondson said.
The Financial Sustainability Summit focuses on key questions such as the role of taxation, levies, and social insurance in ensuring long-term financial sustainability and quality care. It also delves into the benefits, risks, and barriers associated with various policy options and explores the potential of changes in consumer contributions, means testing, pre-funded financial products, and pay-as-you-go approaches to achieve an equitable and sustainable aged care system.
The creation of an Aged Care Taskforce by the Australian Government to review funding arrangements and consider greater co-contributions by older Australians reflects the recognition that current financing models are inadequate to support a sustainable aged care system. The Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) has previously highlighted the potential for more co-contributions from those who can afford them. The upcoming recommendations from the task force are eagerly anticipated.
With aged care emerging as a top spending area in the federal budget, alongside healthcare, the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), defence, and government debt interest, the pressure on the sector will only intensify as the population ages rapidly.
The ageing population will lead to a reduced workforce and increased demand for care, necessitating the implementation of structural solutions without delay.
“More than 4.1 million Australians, or almost 16 per cent of the population, are currently over the age of 65,” Symondson said. “By 2057, that will rise to 8.8 million, or 22 per cent of the population, and by 2097 it will reach 12.8 million people, or one in four Australians. We owe it to older Australians to ensure they have an aged care system they can rely on, today and into the future.”
The summit aims to address the four key dimensions of a financially sustainable aged care system: fiscal sustainability, societal sustainability, workforce sustainability and financial sustainability of providers.
It is crucial to address the long-term financial sustainability of aged care, given that Australia currently contributes only 1.2% of its GDP to long-term aged care, significantly below the OECD average of 2.5%.
As the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety indicated, the number of working-age individuals for every Australian aged 65 and over will decline over time, placing further strain on the system. Consequently, it is essential to act now to secure the future of aged care and provide older Australians with the support they deserve.
The Financial Sustainability Summit facilitated crucial discussions among industry leaders, policymakers, and experts, as well as parallel considerations by the Federal Government and Opposition. With the draft National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy released by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, along with indications of support for increased consumer contributions, the need for sustainable funding in aged care has become a national priority.