IN A response to a media report of 22 February 2012 in The Global Mail (theglobalmail.org) , Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) CEO Ian Yates has described CPSA’s aged care campaign as “blinkered, frequently misrepresentational [sic], and isolated”.Them’s fightin’ words, Mr Yates.
Campaigns need to have a clear focus and purpose. CPSA’s campaign on aged care certainly has that.
Right now, the CPSA campaign focuses on educating people that the Government is seriously contemplating forcing them to use the equity of the family home to pay for aged care, whether that is home care, community care, respite care, home maintenance, home modification or nursing home care.
All types of care, regardless of who delivers it.
While the Minister for Ageing has been going around consulting with the public, reports received by CPSA suggest he has been trying to gloss over the fact that better access to care is going to cost you your house.
COTA, which has been the organiser of these ‘consultations’, will publish a report that is likely to show that people don’t mind selling or reverse mortgaging the family home to pay for aged care.
Apart from Mr Yates’ angry and intemperate language in describing CPSA’s stance on aged care, his description is simply not factual.
CPSA’s campaign is not “blinkered”. It merely puts forward a different view than that held by Mr Yates and his National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) mates.
CPSA’s campaign is not “misrepresentational” (a word made up by Mr Yates, but we know what he means). Mr Yates has not presented any evidence of misrepresentation on CPSA’s part. Simply, CPSA does not have the same view as Mr Yates and Mr Yates doesn’t like it.
CPSA’s campaign is neither “isolated” and Mr Yates’ claim is demonstrably false. He conveniently ignores that Australia’s largest seniors group National Seniors, with an actual membership of 250,000 as opposed to COTA’s actual membership of less than 50,000, is not part of NACA and has criticised the Productivity Commission’s aged care reform proposals along similar lines to CPSA.
Not that these membership numbers should mean much in policy debates. In a democratic society, policy debate should take into account what the people affected actually think.
National Seniors did the logical thing and asked its members what they thought about aged care reform. The full report Aged Care Reform Survey 2011 can be found on www.nationalseniors.com.au
The Report found that awareness of the Productivity Commission’s report Caring for Older Australians was very limited. Fifty-four per cent of respondents had not heard about the report, and of those who had heard about it, almost two-thirds knew very little.
In other words, major aged care reform proposals have not been communicated very well by the Government through COTA, which organised Minister Butler’s public consultations.
Overwhelmingly, respondents agreed that older Australians should contribute to their care costs, in line with their financial capacity, but that there should be a lifetime limit on care costs.
Seventy per cent of respondents rejected the inclusion of the family home in a comprehensive aged care means test. This amounts to a rejection of key Productivity Commission proposals for a Government-backed reverse mortgage scheme and a special pensioner savings account.
So perhaps it’s time Mr Yates retracted his outburst, especially in view of the ineffective public consultations COTA organised.
To put the record straight, CPSA supports a social insurance approach to the funding of aged, disability, general health and dental care, but recognises that this approach should have been taken decades ago.
For aged care, we have missed the boat. For aged care, social insurance will again become an option once the spike in people needing it is over, some forty years away.
Meanwhile, CPSA wants a progressive approach to levying co-contributions for care costs. Progressive means that people with more assets should pay more than people with fewer assets.
The home, being a vital factor in people’s sense of security, should be excluded from the means test for care cost co-contributions.
Few pensioners live in million dollar homes. If they did, they wouldn’t be pensioners.
How is anyone going to have a sense of wellbeing and security if the modest house, which has taken a lifetime to pay off, is being eaten away through a reverse mortgage?
The home ownership rate among those aged 65 and over is so high (84 per cent) because people see home ownership as the cornerstone of their lives. It’s not something to be trifled with.
That doesn’t mean people would not be prepared to exchange their home for another.
Lots of people do so already. Retirement villages and downsizing are booming.
But what these exchanges all have in common is that people retain outright home ownership, retain security of tenure and retain control over their lives.
This readiness to exchange one owned home for another is also the key to funding residential aged care accommodation.
Rather than making people gradually hand over their home equity to aged care providers when they go into a nursing home, people should be able to buy a nursing home place which they or their heirs can later sell, just like a unit in a retirement village can be sold.
However, people simply don’t like going into nursing homes. Indeed, nursing homes are not the way of the future.
The future for residential aged care lies in clustered residential development, using universal design principles that enable independent living and the effective and efficient delivery of community aged care.
It would enable couples to stay together.
The common situation, where one member of a couple goes into a nursing home, would become an exceptional situation.
The Productivity Commission has considered none of this and that is the main reason their report should be scrapped.
The Commission’s proposals would entrench the current way of doing things: people stay in their home for as long as they can, but where these homes cannot be sufficiently modified (for example, walk-up apartments), people have no choice but to go into a nursing home.
THE VOICE knows of cases where people who only had mobility problems ended up bedridden in a nursing home because no dwelling accessible by powerchair was available.
It is a certain recipe for depression and premature death.
Surely, speaking out for a better deal than that proposed by the Productivity Commission is not blinkered, does not misrepresent and is not the wish of a small isolated group of nutcases.
It’s what everyone would want, including Mr Yates.
CPSA invites readers to sign a petition against the Productivity Commission’s aged care funding proposals at http://chn.ge/GzwXbw