AHPA’s early take on the Aged Care Taskforce final report

Published 13 March 2024

Following publication of the final report of the Aged care Taskforce, AHPA Policy & Advocacy Senior Advisor Dr Chris Atmor provides the following summary: 

Overall AHPA welcomes the view of the Taskforce that Government funding should focus on ensuring all older people can access the care they need, while co-contributions should be required for the things people have typically paid for their whole lives, such as daily living expenses and, for those in residential care, accommodation costs.

But the report is unclear on how allied health care is to be funded. On one hand, the Taskforce recommends that government contributions be highest, with consumer co-contributions to be lowest (if any), for ‘clinical supports’. These supports are defined as those that are essential to prevent decline in health (for example, nursing assistance to assess, identify and deliver care to manage health issues, and allied health services). 

Allied health is critical to older people’s health care and wellbeing and should be treated as a key element of aged care services, in keeping with the 2021 findings of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Royal Commission recommended that older people in both the home and in residential care should receive the allied health services that they are assessed to need. 

With regard to in-home care, Royal Commission Recommendation 36 was that funding assigned to an older person should include an amount to meet any identified need for allied health care. In comparison, the Aged Care Taskforce report proposes a list of principles of what should be included and excluded from the new Support at Home program (Recommendation 1). Consumers may assume that allied health services are in the program because they are described as including ‘Services that have been assessed as essential or necessary for health, independence or safety in the home.’ 

However the Taskforce proposes to exclude ‘Services already funded, or more appropriately funded, under other Commonwealth, state, territory or local government programs’. We know that currently older consumers may need to access allied health via a chronic disease management plan, where they are only eligible for a maximum of five appointments annually across all professions, usually with a gap payment. 

In terms of residential aged care, Royal Commission Recommendation 69 was that allied health care should generally be provided by aged care providers. In comparison, the Aged Care Taskforce report recommends that government funding continue to focus on care costs (Recommendation 9), but without making any acknowledgment of the current lack of any designated funding for allied health, unlike care minutes for nursing and personal care.  

At present, residential aged care providers do not necessarily have to provide and pay for an allied health service, just provide ‘access’ to it. This results in consumers often having to pay for allied health care themselves, or at best they have to make a part payment under Medicare and receive only five treatments a year, or they use private insurance if they have the resources to afford it and can pay a gap fee.  

At a public webinar yesterday, in response to questions regarding the funding of allied health care for older Australians, the Taskforce said that it was a matter for Government. This is profoundly disappointing for consumers, their carers and their families. 

Allied Health has always been under provided in Aged Care and we are concerned that older people – who have generally already paid taxes – should not have to pay more for health services that will enable them to live a good life for as long as they possibly can. 

We continue to urge the Government to fully implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission and ensure that allied health is provided to all older consumers who are assessed to need it. 

Read the full Taskforce report