Aged care: the market is the problem

September 20, 2018

The Victorian Socialists released this statement on September 17.

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The federal Coalition government’s rush to call an inquiry into aged care says everything we need to know about the decades-long war against social institutions in this country.

The inquiry was announced ahead of a two-part expo by Four Corners, a show that Coalition governments have tried their best to kill.

Previews and leaks of the show made clear what many of us know through family experience. Aged care is a disaster in this country, with private operators crowding in once the sector was deregulated.

Minimum conditions were altered to suit profit-making operators. Inspection was then underfunded, and the neoliberal ideology of a self-regulating market infected the public service.

This became something we are used to seeing — a vicious circle in which otherwise good people became defeated and nihilistic, transformed by the cynicism of market relations.

With the inquiry announced, talk has now turned to better incentives, bed ratios, tougher inspections, etc.

The message is still not getting through. The problem is not market failure. The problem is the market itself.

It is very simple. Health and social care is a universal social process, oriented to the health, welfare and flourishing of human beings.

The sector should be publicly run, adequately funded by superprofits taxes on corporations; with high standards of living; providing thousands of stable jobs and training ladders and career progression to nurses and social care professionals; and rigorous inspections by an ombuds body, independent of the departments providing the care.

This new socialised form of aged care would not be the old drab, top-down hospitals and home the right loves to scare us with.

Modular, scaled, small and mid-sized units, using the best in new management practices, user advocacy and representation, big data and above all, a process directed not to profit but to people, would give us the care we need.

There is now no reason to fight for half-measures, to beg for better regulation, to try to distinguish between the merely greedy and the actually homicidal.

The only acceptable standard of aged care is a publicly-controlled one, and only socialism can provide that.

Victorian Socialists will fight for a state-level publicly owned aged care system, expanded and properly resourced.

It’s worth reminding anyone who still harbours doubts about public control: this isn’t a case of “it could be you or someone you love”. This will be you, and everyone you love.

Fight for them by fighting for socialism.

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