As campaigning ramps up for the Eden-Monaro by-election, a movement in the electorate is calling for candidates to stand up for the aged care system.
A group called Fight for Better Aged Care has commissioned a poll that shows eight out of 10 people in the Eden-Monaro region want the Federal Government to provide more funding for the aged care system.
The group is supported and funded by Catholic Health Australia, whose CEO Pat Garcia said it is time all political parties and candidates stand up for older Australians and demand an urgent funding injection.
“Older Australians are being let down across the Eden-Monaro region because the aged sector is operating on life support,” said Mr Garcia. “Funding has not kept up with demand or with what older Australians deserve at this time in their lives, and costs are rising faster than funding.”
The survey, conducted by market researcher uComms, asked nearly 700 people in the Eden-Monaro region if the government should provide the aged care system with more funding.
More than 80 per cent responded saying there is a need for more funding, with just five per cent saying no. The remainder were undecided.
Of the people surveyed who are aged 51-65, around 85 per cent backed a funding injection for the aged care sector.
The Interim Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has outlined a series of shortcomings in aged care, which, if addressed, would immediately help the sector and see conditions improved for senior Australians, including more funding for home care packages and better services.
“It’s time to change that and we need the support of everyone living in the region,” said Mr Garcia.
“Our polling shows there is overwhelming support to fix our aged care system, and for it to be properly funded. It’s time to call on our politicians at this critical time and put aged care on the political map.
“It has become almost accepted – normal, even – for our aged care staff to be overworked and undervalued, that we spend less than other countries on aged care and that some of the most vulnerable people in our society have become invisible.”
Data shows almost 70 per cent of aged care homes in regional NSW are in danger of closing because of funding shortages. People living in the NSW Southern Highland Aged Care Planning Region, which covers Eden-Monaro, are also struggling to receive home care packages.
Around 1200 older people who have been assessed as needing home care support are either receiving no services or are receiving fewer services than their assessed need.
Gerard Hayes, secretary of the Health Services Union, which represents thousands of workers in the aged care sector, has also backed the campaign.
“We already knew how short-changed our aged care homes are, but COVID-19 has seriously sharpened the focus,” he said. “Older Australians gave us the prosperity and fairness that makes Australia such an excellent place to live. We owe it to them to properly fund aged care so they can enjoy dignity and comfort in retirement.”
Kerry Kelly, manager at Blakeney Lodge residential aged care facility in Tumut, welcomes the campaign for more funding.
“We would really appreciate extra funding to train and mentor the next generation of aged care workers, sharing valuable skills needed for the sustainable delivery of high-quality aged care,” she said.
“Our residents tell us they don’t desire a mansion with shag pile carpets and chandeliers. What they love about living in our home is the simplicity, respect, time given and the support to be themselves.”
The Fight for Better Aged Care movement is also calling on people in the Eden-Monaro region to write to their candidates in the upcoming by-election to support the campaign on social media.