Push to extend out of home care to young people aged up to 21




Half of all young Australians who leave foster or residential care end up homeless, in jail or pregnant within 12 months, according to official figures. Now there are calls to extended support services in Canberra. Harry Frost reports.

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Politician Wes Streeting diagnosed with kidney cancer aged 38


abour frontbencher Wes Streeting is to step back from politics while he undergoes treatment for kidney cancer.

Mr Streeting, 38, said the diagnosis had come as “an enormous shock” but the prognosis was good as the disease had been caught early.

In a video message posted on his Twitter feed, the MP for Ilford North said he would not be returning to work until he had made a full recovery.

The announcement comes less than a week after he was promoted to the shadow cabinet by Sir Keir Starmer as shadow secretary of state for child poverty.

In his message, Mr Streeting said: “Back in early March, I went into hospital with a kidney stone and, at the time, a scan identified a lump on the same kidney.

“Around a month later, in April, unfortunately that lump was diagnosed as kidney cancer.

“While receiving a cancer diagnosis at the age of 38 has come as an enormous shock, the good news is because of that kidney stone the cancer has been caught early, my prognosis is very good, and I should make a full recovery.

“But it does mean I have to take time off work for treatment.

“My family have made it very clear – and actually so has Keir – that I will not be coming back until I’ve made a full recovery.

“Hopefully that won’t be too long but in the meantime, bear with me and thank you very much in advance for your support.”

Sir Keir said the thoughts of the entire Labour Party were with Mr Streeting and his family.

“Wes is a friend and a colleague and I know he will come back from this even stronger and more determined than ever before,” the Labour leader said.

“I cannot wait to see him back in Parliament as soon as possible.”

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Government announces ‘largest package’ $10b aged care funding


The aged care sector is set to be given a $10 billion boost over the next four years in what has been dubbed a “major overhaul” of the system.

This week’s federal budget is set to deliver the much-needed funds after recommendations by the Royal Commission into Aged Care which uncovered shocking reports of neglect within the system.

In the overhaul of the aged care sector, it is expected the money will go towards addressing understaffing issues, support for the elderly to stay in their own homes and more resources for residential facilities.

At present, there are an estimated 200,000 elderly Australians in aged care facilities.

Health Minister Greg Hunt described the deal as the “largest package in Australia’s history”.

RELATED: Women’s health to get budget boost

RELATED: Aged Care Royal Commission final report released

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the Government is committed to fixing the problems that the royal commission highlighted in its report which it handed down earlier this year.

“We’ve had a royal commission which has indicated that the sector is in dire need of reform,” Mr Frydenberg said.

“We have an ageing population and it’s not just about spending more money, it’s also about ensuring that that money is well spent and our focus is on governance, workforce issues, the quality of aged care services.”

Mr Hunt said the allocation of the funds in the budget would help the Government “respond in full” to the royal commission’s recommendations.

“One of the important things that we have here is a response to the royal commission, which is based on ensuring that we have respect and care, and dignity,” Mr Hunt said.

He said the Government’s aim was to “make sure that aged care is accessible and as available as possible for as many as possible”.

A report by the Grattan Institute said $10 billion was needed per year to help fix a sector riddled with problems.

Grattan Institute health program director Stephen Duckett and associate Anika Stobart wrote in a piece for The Conversation that the sector needed “a complete overhaul”.

“Australia’s aged care system is in a state of disaster. The aged care royal commission’s final report … is just the latest in a decades-long string of depressing reports and inquiries exposing horrific abuse, neglect and systemic failures,” they wrote.

“Aged care needs a complete overhaul. Piecemeal reform will not be enough.”

In March, the aged care royal commission released its final report, outlining 148 recommendations as part of an extensive overhaul of the sector.

At least one in three people accessing residential aged care and home care services have experienced substandard care, the report concluded.

Assaults could be as high as almost one in five in residential care, where almost half have concerns about staff, and there was “a clear overuse” of physical and chemical restraints.

Studies have also revealed that two in three nursing home residents were malnourished or at risk of malnutrition, while the commission heard “horrific accounts” of substandard skincare.

Some felt the money didn’t come close to what was needed to fix aged care in Australia.

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert tweeted: “$10 billion over four years is not enough to fix our broken aged care system, much more is needed.”

Similarly, Labor’s aged care spokesman Mark Butler said cost of answering all the recommendations in the royal commission’s report would cost “way more” than $10 billion.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the response to the royal commission report would test the government, including the May federal budget.

But he said generational change was needed to put the individual and needs-based care at the centre of the aged care system.

“Life is to be lived every single second, every single minute. It is precious,” Mr Morrison said.

“The fact that Australians feel they are waiting out their life, it’s impossible to put into words how you respond to that.

“So generational change is needed.”

The funding package will help address five key areas: home care, residential aged care quality and safety, residential aged care services and sustainability, workforce, and governance.

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Covid: Canada authorises Pfizer vaccine for children aged 12 to 15



Canada has authorised the use of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children between the ages of 12 and 15.

It is the first country to do so for that age group.

The country’s health ministry made the decision based on data from phase three clinical trials on children that age.

“The department determined that this vaccine is safe and effective when used in this younger age group,” an adviser at the ministry said. Pfizer says its jab works well in the age group.

Canada has already authorised the use of the Pfizer vaccine in people over 16.

The country has recorded more than 1.2 million coronavirus cases and roughly 20% of those have been in people under the age of 19.

Children’s risk of becoming very ill or dying with Covid-19 is tiny, and throughout the pandemic they have very rarely needed hospital treatment.

As part of the vaccine’s approval, Pfizer will have to continue providing information to Canada’s health ministry on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in those aged 12 to 15.

Last March, Pfizer said initial results from trials of its vaccine in this age group showed 100% efficacy and a strong immune response.

The US Food and Drug administration and the European Medicines Agency are currently reviewing whether they can authorise the jab for younger people, with decisions expected soon.

US President Joe Biden this week laid out plans to roll out vaccines for 12- to 15-year-olds as soon as possible.

Pfizer is one of a number of vaccine manufacturers testing jabs on children. The aim of vaccinating them – particularly older children – would be to keep schools open, reduce the spread of coronavirus in the community and protect vulnerable children with conditions which put them at increased risk.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are currently testing their vaccines on those aged 12-18 with Moderna’s data expected soon.

Moderna and Pfizer are also testing their jabs on younger children between six months and 11 years old.

In the UK, AstraZeneca is testing its vaccine on 300 child volunteers. Researchers will assess whether the jab produces a strong immune response in children aged between six and 17.

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Frank Costa, former Geelong Cats president and philanthropist, dies aged 83


Former president of the Geelong Football Club, businessman and philanthropist Frank Costa has died at the age of 83.

A giant figure in Victoria’s second-biggest city, Mr Costa and his brother Adrian took over the family fruit and vegetable business in 1958, growing Costa Group into a billion-dollar company. 

But the father of eight is perhaps best known for his tenure as president of the Geelong Cats from 1998 to 2010.

During his time as head of the club, the Cats went from a financially struggling team to a powerhouse that broke a 44-year drought to win AFL premierships in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

He was awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2001 for his significant role in the AFL, which included the restoration of the club.

Mr Costa was awarded life membership of the Cats in 2011 following more than 30 years’ involvement with the club.

“Without Frank, there must be a genuine question as to whether or not the Geelong Football Club would exist today,” the club’s chief executive Brian Cook said.

“When the history of the club is written, it will be impossible to do so without having Frank at the forefront of the past 20-25 years. He took a divided club and willed it into the club we know today.”

Mr Costa was recently named a legend of the club — the 26th ever person and the first non-player to be inducted.

“Frank was a legend as a person, and a legend of the club. He forged so many strong and lasting relationships through his warmth and authenticity. He will be missed by all that have been fortunate enough to know and love him,” Mr Cook said.

“Our thoughts are with Shirley, and the entire Costa family.”

Mr Costa was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2015 for his distinguished services in sports, business, religious, medical, educational and social welfare organisations.

In 2003 he received the Governor-General’s Centenary Medal for his contribution to Australian society.

Acting Victorian Premier James Merlino called Mr Costa an “extraordinary individual” who was “passionate not only about the Geelong Football Club, but the entire Geelong region”.

“He took an entire community… an entire region with him,” he said.

Mr Merlino said the government would consider a state funeral if the family wanted one.

Member for Corio and deputy Labor leader Richard Marles said Geelong had “lost its leading citizen”.

“It is impossible to conceive of Geelong without Frank Costa,” he said.

Mr Marles said Mr Costa’s stature was “built on the strength of his values”.

“His generosity of spirit was profound. His honesty was total.  And he knew what was really important in life; faith, family and friends.”

Liberal senator and Geelong local Sarah Henderson called Mr Costa “a great man; humble and kind and a giant of Geelong in every sense”.

Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett called him a “wonderful human being”.

“The City of Geelong and its community will forever be in his debt.”

Mr Costa’s philanthropic work often centred around his hometown of Geelong, and he was involved in a number of charities.

He and his wife established the Frank and Shirley Costa fund for the Geelong Community Foundation, saying “it is only when you give that you receive”.

The Barwon Health Foundation said Mr Costa’s “generosity and leadership will always be admired”.

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Oscar-winning star of Moonstruck dies aged 89



She plugged him in her Oscars acceptance speech, shouting “OK, Michael, let’s go” as she concluded her remarks and held up her statuette.

Michael Dukakis ended up losing the election to George HW Bush, but both she and her cousin remained active in politics.

Cher has paid tribute to Dukakis, tweeteing: “Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing, Academy Award Winning Actress.

“Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was That Of a Suffering Wife, We [laughed] ALL The Time.

“She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.

“I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One.”

Olympia Dukakis is survived by the daughter and two sons she had with Zorich, who died in 2018.

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Allied health is often considered a luxury but could be crucial to aged care reform, experts say


They are often considered a luxury, but access to allied health services for older Australians can mean the difference between ageing well at home, being institutionalised or worse.

Allied health services, which include specialist therapies like physiotherapy, podiatry, psychology and occupational therapy, were found to be severely lacking in aged care by the recent royal commission into the system.

It made recommendations to change that and put the focus on preventing illness where possible to keep people in their homes for longer.

Marji Durward, who is almost 92, lives at home in Adelaide’s inner north-east with her Maltese-poodle cross Tilly and her son.

Without a band of allied health services she expects she would not still be here.

“I’d probably be up there or down there,” she said, indicating to the sky and the ground.

“I don’t know what I’d be without any of them.”

Ms Durward has Parkinson’s Disease and a range of other health concerns, she has also survived cancer and two strokes.

Her son Jeff Durward has been her full-time carer for 13 years and is quick to point out how fortunate she is, as a war widow, to have a gold card from the Department of Veterans Affairs, which gives her access to health services.

It covers treatment for all her medical conditions, including access to a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist who works with her on preventing pressure sores and providing equipment like a suitable mattress, electric bed and recliner chair.

“Unfortunately, people who don’t have a gold card fall into a category of, ‘Well, this is how much you get a year and this is what you can have’, and it’s really not enough for an elderly person to function properly in their own homes,” he said.

‘You don’t see preventative care’

Tracie McInness, managing director of Living to the Max occupational therapy services in Adelaide, said there was work to be done to ensure people receive the funding they need through in-home care packages, that the funding is transparently used and providers are accountable to their clients.

“We just see it all the time, if you don’t have access to other health services through other means and you’re purely reliant on the health care system, you don’t get any services.”

“You might get some support for shopping, cleaning and some care, but preventative services just don’t get funded,” she said.

Allied health care could sometimes be seen as the “icing on the cake”, according to Tracie McInness.(

Supplied: Rosie O’Beirne

)

Instead, she said, allied health care like occupational therapy, physiotherapy and the like are the “icing on the cake”.

“We see people under a higher package, they [people without higher-tier care packages] are not getting preventative services and if they do, it’s seen as a luxury.

“If you don’t have access, you have to follow a pathway that’s provided, rather than looking at preventative [care] — it’s more reactive.”

Royal commission found allied health had not been prioritised

The royal commission into aged care found providers had not prioritised allied health care services and that there was limited access to them for people in the system.

The final report recommended that residential aged care include allied health services, funded and matched to the needs of each resident.

“People receiving aged care do not get access to services they need to maintain their function and health,” it said.

“They should have access to a wide range of allied health services to maintain or improve their capacities and prevent deterioration as far as practicable.”

It also said assessments for care at home should identify and fund any allied care needed to restore a person’s physical and mental health to the highest level possible, to maximise their independence and autonomy.

Denying access is ageism, professor says

Denying access to preventative health services is ageism and contributes to premature institutionalisation and ill health, according to Professor Gregory Kolt from the Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences

“It’s really discrimination on the basis of age, particularly where it relates to health care around the ageing process, what’s appropriate for people as they age and what services may or may not be appropriate from a healthcare perspective,” he said.

He argued there should not be caps on numbers, or barriers to accessing, a diverse range of services that older people desperately need.

“The longer we can keep people in their more usual and comfortable home environment for a whole range of areas for the ageing process, if we can concurrently support those people in that home-based environment I think we will see a reduction in emergency room admissions as well.”

Ageism is a theme that came through repeatedly during the aged care royal commission, on society’s attitudes and assumptions about older people and in effect how we treat people as they age.

In its final report, the royal commission noted “Commissioner Briggs considers that ageism is a systemic problem in the Australian community that must be addressed”.

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Ashley Cain’s daughter Azaylia dies aged 8 months


Former footballer Ashley Cain has announced his eight-month-old daughter Azaylia has died.

She was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia at eight weeks old.

Her parents, ex-Coventry City player turned reality star Ashley Cain and partner Safiyya Vorajee, had raised more than £1.5m earlier this year to fund specialist treatment in Singapore.

But the 30-year-old told his Instagram followers last month that Azaylia had become too ill for the treatment.

In posts announcing her death, Ashley and Safiyya shared pictures of them cuddling their daughter.

Ex on the Beach star Ashley wrote: “Rest in Paradise Princess. I will always hold you in my heart until I can hold you again in heaven.”

Azaylia’s mum said her baby was “my angel, my heartbeat, my soul.”

She added: “RIP my precious baby, you will always be with me like a handprint on my heart.”

In November, the couple – from Nuneaton in Warwickshire – had urged people to register as stem cell donors after being told their daughter needed a transplant.

It led to 41,000 people registering within 48 hours.

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Shepparton aged care residents still waiting for COVID-19 vaccine


The CEO of an aged care operator in Shepparton says families of residents are taking them to local doctors to get COVID-19 vaccinations, due to the uncertainty of the government’s immunization program.

Shepparton Villages operates three residential aged care villages with more than 300 beds across the sites and is one of the biggest providers of aged care services in the Goulburn Valley.

The facility is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation and comes under the Federal Government’s immunisation program.

CEO Veronica Jamison said it was a shame that families felt they had to take matters into their own hands to protect their elderly relatives.

“I’m absolutely surprised, I think given the significance of people living in residential aged care homes — and the terrible things that happened during COVID-19 — I would have thought that it would have been absolute top priority to have all of the residents across Australia immunised first before anybody else was immunised,” Ms Jamison said.

She said Shepparton Villages had received an indication that their residents might be vaccinated in early May, however the operators were yet to receive confirmation.

Ms Jamison said the uncertainty was delaying the rollout of flu vaccines for residents.

Murray Primary Health Network (PHN) is helping with the coordination of the government’s vaccine rollout in the region.

The network takes in towns and cities across North East Victoria, Goulburn Valley, Central Victoria and North West Victoria including Albury, Shepparton, Bendigo and Mildura.

CEO Matt Jones said the delivery of the COVID-19 vaccine to private aged care residents in the region had taken longer than had been anticipated.

“The realities are the supply of Pfizer and the availability of the vaccinators through the Aspen Medical Services has meant that it has taken some time,” he said.

There are about 70 private aged care facilities in the Murray PHN, and Mr Jones said the schedule for the delivery of vaccines to the facilities had now come through.

“It’s certainly been the case that that was not known to all aged care facilities nor ourselves and others,” he said.

Mr Jones said it was hoped residents in all private aged care facilities in the Murray PHN would be vaccinated by the end of May.

He said additional capabilities had been provided to help with the delivery of the vaccine to aged care residents and recent changes had been made to improve the access of vaccinations to aged care staff.

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Aged care leaders worry Morrison government’s budget boost will not be enough | Aged care (Australia)


Aged care leaders are unimpressed by the Morrison government’s reported plans to spend $10bn over four years on reforms to the sector, saying it’s about a quarter of what’s needed to address the findings of the aged care royal commission.

The Grattan Institute, in its response to the aged care royal commission’s report, urged the commonwealth to boost spending on the aged care sector by $10bn a year – considerably more than the $10bn over four years the government is reportedly planning for the sector in the 11 May federal budget to fund recommendations including more home care packages.

Stephen Duckett, the health program director at the Grattan Institute and former secretary of what is now the Department of Health, said the “government’s response to the royal commission report has not been promising so far”.

While the royal commissioners did not cost their recommendations, Duckett said an additional $9.8bn a year was needed on top of the current annual spend on the system – which was $27bn in 2018-19, when $20bn came from the government and the rest from state and territory governments and recipient contributions.

Duckett noted recent government announcements for aged care, including an initial $452m unveiled when the report was released at the beginning of March, have been “superficial” in addressing the key structural problems in the sector, around improved staffing levels and quality and eliminating the 90,000-strong waiting list for home care packages.

“The government must lift its ambition, and seize this opportunity to introduce landmark social policy reform fit to stand next to Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” Duckett said.

The thinktank has proposed a new Medicare-style levy on taxable income, changes to the pension assets test or to the residential aged care means test, and reductions in “excessively generous” tax breaks on superannuation to raise the additional funds to aid the failing system.

While the royal commissioners diverged on their funding recommendations, both agreed on some form of levy to raise cash – a move the government has been hesitant to commit to.

“Their distinguishing argument so far has been that we are not going to increase taxes and we’re not going to reduce tax expenditure, but the government should see this budget as an opportunity,” Duckett said.

“Healthcare is a growing sector, and it is skewed towards employing women. I think there’s a good argument for the government to pay for the changes needed even if it means taking a hit to their bottom line.”

The Grattan Institute report proposed four areas of critical reform. Firstly, it argued Australia needed a new Aged Care Act.

“This would enshrine a universal entitlement to care, and enable a new streamlined and integrated single aged care program. Secondly, aged care needs new governance systems to provide stronger accountability and transparency. An independent temporary aged care transition body should be established, while the department of health implements urgent fixes to the current system.”

Australia must also set and enforce minimum care hours per resident in residential care, and all aged care workers should have minimum training requirements.

The health and aged care minister, Greg Hunt, refused to be drawn on the $10bn figure over four years.

“We do not comment on budget speculation,” a spokeswoman for Hunt said.

Patricia Sparrow, the chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia – the peak body representing church, charitable and community-based providers of aged care – labelled the Grattan Institute report as “speculative”, but said $10bn was “certainly a lesser figure than what has been suggested as being needed”.

“There’s a nervousness. We’ve been here before,” Sparrow said, noting previous inquiries into the sector had failed to trigger substantial reform.

Sparrow’s ACSA forms part of the Australian Aged Care Collaboration, an alliance of providers responsible for about 70% of services in Australia. The collaboration called for uncapped home care packages and a registration scheme for care workers in its response to the royal commission report last week.

Ian Yates, the chief executive of the Council on the Ageing, said the reported $10bn in additional funding “isn’t on the right scale” and is hopeful “we’ll still see significantly more than that” promised by the government as part of its budget response.

“I am reasonably confident that the final figure for aged care will be larger than that. But we’ll have to wait and see whether it will be sufficient … We know it’s a contest in cabinet,” he said.

But the head of Monash University’s health law and ageing research unit, Prof Joseph Ibrahim, a geriatric physician who gave evidence to the aged care royal commission, said Australians deserve to know how the funding already going to aged care providers was being spent before measures to raise further funding were implemented.

“While I don’t think there’s any doubt that more money is needed in the system, the question of how much I think remains open-ended,” Ibrahim said.

“First we should be demanding a design for a better system, and to be shown by aged care providers they are not going to waste any extra money given to them. If they’re going to just stick any money into the stock market, and the shareholders are going to get the benefit, then I am not interested in giving them more funding.”

Ibrahim said there were different philosophies about how much people should pay towards their own care, including whether assets accumulated should go to an individual’s family or towards their own aged care, and whether taxpayers should fund aged care knowing they might not ever have to use it themselves but that it will benefit others.

“And I think what we need to do is be able to say, is aged care a public good like healthcare, or is it a private luxury? The minute the government makes that statement and is transparent about that, then people can better decide what they are willing to pay and how.

“I think that level of transparency is needed and needs to be articulated. We can’t just assume that there will be universal access to the same standard of care for everyone.”

As a starting point to better fund aged care, Ibrahim said providers should be forced to find where money is currently being wasted and misappropriated.

“We know that you can save money by doing things properly,” he said. “Before proposing a new funding model, the consequences of doing things badly have led to issues that should firstly be addressed.”

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