11 April 2012

"A nationwide survey by the Australia Institute for Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (attached) has found that two-in-three Australians reject the notion that anyone should be forced to sell or reverse mortgage the family home to access aged care, as proposed by the Productivity Commission report 'Caring for Older Australians'", said CPSA Senior Policy/Research Officer, Antoine Mangion.

CPSA calls on the Federal Government to abandon the recommendations of the Productivity Commission's report 'Caring for Older Australians'.

If not forced or effectively forced through inclusion of the family home in the aged care means test, the idea of the Federal Government sponsoring access to a reverse mortgage of the family home to pay for aged care received 50-50 support.

If the element of compulsion were to be introduced, the support rate for selling or reverse mortgaging the family home dropped dramatically: more than two-thirds of respondents were opposed to being made to sell or reverse mortgage the home to pay for aged care.

Only five per cent of respondents strongly supported the Productivity Commission's proposal to force people to sell or reverse mortgage the family home to pay for aged care.

Clearly, the Federal Government must steer clear of compulsory sale or reverse mortgage of the family home to fund aged care.

The findings of this survey funded by cash-strapped CPSA provide some context for today's presentation and luncheon at the National Press Club put on by the National Aged Care Alliance, an aged care provider lobby group whose main function in life is to cry poor on behalf of the nursing home industry.

Members of the National Press Club should note that the claim by the Council on the Ageing (which has inexplicably thrown in its lot with the nursing home industry rather than consumers and has become a member of the National Aged Care Alliance) that it represents 500,000 older Australians, is a gross overstatement: its actual membership is less than 50,000 Australia wide (see pg 2). COTA CEO Ian Yates will be on hand to explain what particular multiplier has been at work here and also why COTA has joined NACA, an action that is comparable to, say, Greenpeace joining the Minerals Council.

The National Aged Care Alliance is pushing for uncapped nursing home fees to be paid for by mass reverse mortgaging of the family home of older Australians as proposed by the Productivity Commission in its report 'Caring for Older Australians'.

Throwing out Research Methods 101, the Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler awarded COTA a $410,000, non-contested contract to gather and convey consumer views on the Productivity Commission's reform proposals to guide the government's response.

Too bad that COTA, as an advocacy organisation and member of NACA, had already formulated a view on the Commission's proposals - that they're a good idea. Somehow COTA would objectively report back people's concerns about the reform proposals, including those it does not agree with.

Contrary to this survey research (attached), in its 8-page summary report, COTA states that only 'one or two people' expressed a concern about selling their home to pay for care.

This begs the question, how were these conversations run?

The question that Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler needs to answer is, how could he engage a NACA-member organisation with a predilection for the Productivity Commission's reforms, to conduct these consultations?

CPSA supports a social insurance approach to the funding of aged, disability, general health and dental care, but recognises that this approach to aged care funding should have been taken decades ago.

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.

When people bought their home, they never thought that it could be taken away. People have put their lives into their homes. Fire selling and fire reverse mortgaging family homes rips away people's safety net. That's why the home 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.

Rather than making people gradually hand over their home equity to aged care providers when they go into a nursing home, people should have the option 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, 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.

CPSA agrees with Alzheimer's Australia's President, Ita Buttrose, in that there is no reason why most people, including those with dementia, shouldn't be cared for in their own home.

"Nursing homes are islands of misery and living there is a certain recipe for depression and premature death", said Mr Mangion.

Media Contact: CPSA