Anthony Albanese has fired a broadside at Josh Frydenberg just days out from the budget, demanding the federal government urgently pour funds into managing the “broken” aged care sector and specifically addressing rising concerns over dementia among the elderly.
Next Tuesday’s federal budget is expected to be a spend-a-thon, tipped to include expensive packages on gender equality and infrastructure, but also comprehensive commitments around the royal commissions into disability and aged care.
The federal government is under pressure to respond appropriately to dozens of sweeping recommendations from those inquiries, and Mr Albanese will use a speech to the McKell Institute on Thursday night to urge Scott Morrison and treasurer Frydenberg to make good on their pledges.
“Without comprehensive reform of the way we manage dementia we face a massive and continuing impact on the productivity of women, who are primarily the carers of ageing relatives,” the Labor leader will say, according to an advance copy of the speech circulated by his office.
“Next week’s Budget should ensure that dementia management is core business for aged care.”
“The condition is difficult to manage. And resources are inadequate.”
Labor has hammered the government continually on aged care over the past two years, as the royal commission exposed countless horror stories of residents found neglected, malnourished and sick. That ramped up as the COVID pandemic tore through facilities in Sydney and Melbourne, exposing faults in the system which had been warned about for years.
Mr Albanese’s speech says the royal commission’s findings were “a shame on our nation” and a “national embarrassment”. He calls on the government to move faster in addressing issues like home care packages, nutritition for residents, higher pay and training for staff, and better staff ratios in facilities.
“It needs a crackdown on unscrupulous providers who put their financial comfort above the interests of older Australians in their care,” Mr Albanese will say.
“It is time for comprehensive reform with ongoing transparency and a ratings system so all Australians can make informed decisions about where their loved ones go for care.”
The Labor leader pledges to “rebuild our broken aged care sector” if his party wins government at the next election, tipped for early 2022.
Mr Albanese’s speech hones in specifically on dementia, in the scope of reforming aged care. He will call for dementia care to be included as part of formal training for doctors, nurses and care workers, and for a focus on that condition in caring for older Australians.
“Aged care providers must demonstrate they are competent and capable of caring for older Australians with dementia,” he will say.
His speech suggests specialised ‘support leaders’ and counsellors for people with dementia and their families, updating of building codes to ensure aged care homes can cater to residents with dementia, and extending support dog programs.
Labor has run hard on social issues through the pandemic, demanding action on aged care, unemployment and healthcare, while making child care the centrepiece of Mr Albanese’s budget reply speech last year.
After Mr Frydenberg unveiled the government’s own child care policy on Sunday, six months later, Labor accused them of “imitation”. Mr Albanese’s speech goes further in criticising the government’s response.
“The Government has released a pale imitation of Labor’s child care plan. It will not commence until July 2022 and will help one quarter of those that will be assisted by our plan,” he will say, blasting Mr Frydenberg for having “dismissed Labor’s policy”.
“The Treasurer announcing a solution for a problem he said last year didn’t exist.”