'Cruel system' set to get fresh funding

The federal government continues to whittle away at the lengthy waiting list for home care, announcing that Thursday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) will provide funding for an additional 10,000 places as part of a $1 billion package.

Additional in-home support was a key recommendation of the aged care royal commission’s interim report. About 152,000 people are receiving in-home care, but the latest official data shows that another 102,000 people are waiting for packages they had been approved for.

The royal commission heard disturbing reports that people were dying while waiting for support and described the waitlist as a “cruel and discriminatory system”.

“During the 12-month period ending in June 2018, more than 16,000 people died waiting for a package,” the commission wrote in its interim report. “We regard this as totally unacceptable.”

The new places will cost $850 million, with the rest of the $1 billion funding to be spent on measures that include the national COVID-19 response and allied and mental health services. This allocation – 2500 packages across each of the four levels of care – is on top of the $1.6 billion announced in the October budget for 26,000 home care packages.

The government says about 195,000 people will be receiving in-home care by June next year.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia chief executive Ian Yates said the latest announcement was “yet another promising step by the government towards ensuring all older Australians can live at home as long as they are able to”. However, he also acknowledged the Safer at Home campaign, which is seeking a maximum one-month waiting period for home care by the end of 2021 – as proposed by the aged care royal commission.

“This investment brings to nearly 40,000 the number of new home care packages funded this financial year,” Mr Yates said. “This gives us hope that the government is well on the way to making aged care reform a major budget priority.”

He said older Australians consistently say they want to live at home for as long as they can, with residential care a last resort. “However, each year, 19,000 people who are approved by government for home care are forced into residential care before they receive a package. Tragically, another 10,000 die while waiting for the care they need and deserve.

“It is vitally important that older Australians are afforded the respect and dignity of being supported to live in their own home as long as they are able to with proper supports.

“The current system simply isn’t working, with many people waiting over 12 months for their package and lots of money being wasted.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the government will continue to prioritise funding for home care packages.

“We will continue to address the many challenges there are in aged care, not only by boosting funding but also providing better access to health services to improve physical and mental wellbeing for older Australians,” he said.

“We have provided 10,000 additional home care packages at MYEFO every year for the past three years.

“This commitment continues.”

Do you believe the additional packages go far enough to reduce the waitlists?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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