The 2018/19 Federal Budget provides a significant investment in the lives of older Australians through the More Choices for a Longer Life package. With roughly an additional $5 billion dollar investment in Aged Care over the next four years this certainly constitutes a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done to protect older Australians.
With the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supporting people with disability under the age of 65, it is critical that the aged care system provide the same necessary supports for those ineligible for the scheme to ensure continuity of support. Blindness and vision impairment disproportionately affects the older Australians, with more than 70 per cent reporting vision loss.
The More Choices for a Longer Life package provides the eye health and vision care sector avenues to address our concerns for people who are blind or have low vision over the age of 65. There will be $1.6 billion invested over four years to create 14,000 additional high level home care places, to complement 6,000 additional places created in December 2017. The creation of new home care packages is a welcome addition but falls short of providing care for roughly 60,000 Australian’s waiting for in home care.
The Government also aims to create easier access through the My Aged Care Portal and develop tailored information materials for people with diverse needs, with a $61.7 million investment over two years. The creation of accessible documents is vitally important for people who are blind or have low vision and further advocacy work will be required to ensure that all documentation is provided in accessible formats.
Preparatory work will also begin on a new national assessment framework for people seeking aged care. It has been announced that $14.8 million will be delivered over the next two years to begin this important work. As people over the age of 65 are not eligible for the NDIS, it is critical that assessment frameworks are constructed to address the needs of people who are blind or vision impaired and provide them with appropriate supports. Vision 2020 Australia is interested in this work and look forward to working collaboratively with Government to achieve desired outcomes.
An important area of focus for the Budget is an increase in funding for mental health support. The aged care system is set to receive an $80 million boost in this area. Research has continued to link vision loss with higher level of depression in general populations. Due to this correlation, it is important that all mental health support and materials are delivered in accessible formats to enable people who are blind or have low vision equitable access and treatment.
The 2018/19 Federal Budget provides positive steps to supporting Australia’s ageing population but continued advocacy is required to ensure appropriate supports are guaranteed. Vision 2020 Australia welcomes this commitment and looks forward to collaboratively addressing the needs for people who are blind or vision impaired in the aged care system.