Everything is going up. Just not community care funding.

This article was first published in The Examiner on 04/08/22.

The cost of everything is going up. 

Lettuce. Fuel. Your mortgage repayments. It’s tough out there to make ends meet. Everyone’s stretching the dollar as far as it will go.

You know what isn’t going up? Community care funding. At least not by enough for organisations to survive on.

Community care helps with all the things that get a little bit harder when you’re older. Things like mowing the lawn or fixing a fence, transport to doctors appointments and house cleaning. It’s an important service that people rely on.

This year funding from the federal government is increasing by just under two per cent. Community care providers have to put that to increased wages, super contributions, insurance, and loan or rent repayments. 

Those numbers don’t add up.

I’ve spoken to community care providers in the north of Tassie. They’ve done their figures for this financial year, and they’re in the red. By a lot.

But when they spoke to public servants about their funding pitfalls, they were told to tighten their belts and quit delivering care to expensive regional areas if they can’t afford it.

They’re told to let the big providers service small areas instead. But big providers don’t go to areas like Sheffield, Railton, Deloraine. They don’t know the community like small local providers. 

Community care providers are making tough choices. They don’t want to let their clients down, but they’re tearing their hair out figuring out how to pay their staff. 

They don’t deserve it. Their staff are the people we trust to look after our mums and dads, our grandparents. They need our support.

I know because my partner Tim works in aged care. I see the long hours he does. 

The times he went hours without a drink or a toilet break because he was kitted up in PPE. The grief when he comes home and tells me one of his patients has passed away. The smile on his face when he tells me about their adventures - Glynis felt well enough to dance today, or Tim sang along to John’s favourite song with him. 

Tim cares about these people as if they were his own family. And I know he’s not the only one.

But it’s a hard job. And when bigger organisations and other industries can offer way better money for easier jobs, it’s not hard to see how small organisations are losing staff. I don’t blame them. These employees have families to feed.

NDIS funding is going up by nine per cent this year. Almost four times as much as the community care. It allows for the increase in minimum wages award and superannuation. It’s just covering them for their rising costs.

If community care is facing the same increases, then why aren’t they getting the same funding? They do similar work, and the providers deserve just as much.

I’ve spoken to the Aged Care Minister. She says she has a plan to increase funding for residential aged care soon with a new needs-based model. Parliament is debating a bill this week that will set the wheels in motion, and I think that’s a good thing. 

But we’ve got to give more certainty for community care providers too, not just the ones who run aged care homes. 

These organisations - especially those in regional and rural areas - won’t survive on a two percent increase in funding. They’re looking at shutting down or letting half their staff go within months. And if providers in those hard-to-reach areas go under, our loved ones will be left without the support they need.

Community care workers deserve more funding, just like the NDIS. It’s not asking for the world, it’s what they need to cover the bare minimum. 

Let’s fix it as soon as we can. We can’t afford to lose our community care providers.