Retirees’ calls for help are going unanswered

The federal government’s My Aged Care service is failing older Australians.

frustrated

The federal government’s My Aged Care helpline describes itself as “starting point on your aged care journey”, the main means of obtaining information about government-funded aged care services. But in the past year, an average of 118 calls a day have gone unanswered.

In 2018–19, nearly 43,000 calls went unanswered, according to figures provided to the Senate, and more than 110,000 calls went unanswered over a three-year period.

The service is largely only contactable via website or phone, although in 2019, the government put $7.4 million towards a ‘system navigators’ trial that will pilot face-to-face options until June 2020.

As the aged care royal commission continues to investigate the shortcomings of care throughout Australia, the information provided to the Senate has alarmed Aged and Community Services Australia, which represents not-for-profit aged care providers.

“Access to information is critical for elderly Australians, or loved ones calling on their behalf,” said chief executive Patricia Sparrow.

“The current system is based on only a few people needing face-to-face support with the emphasis on website and phone contact, but what we’ve learnt is that lots of people need that face-to-face support.”

YourLifeChoices research shows that 62 per cent of older Australians regard aged care planning as either very important or important, but almost 50 per cent (49.63 per cent) of the 3397 respondents to the Ensuring Financial Security in Retirement Survey 2019 said they had no idea about the costs of aged care and how much they might need in their later years. The need for information is of vital importance.

An interim report from the aged care commission last year, titled Neglect, noted “many people in their 80s and 90s find [the phone and internet system] frightening, confronting and confusing”.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck defended My Aged Care, saying the contact centre had a “strong record of answering calls quickly” and maintained the average time to answer a call was less than 30 seconds.

“It is likely that a proportion of the unanswered calls were abandoned because the caller had phoned the wrong number or changed their mind,” he said.

Mr Colbeck said the government was exploring opportunities for further face-to-face support – in addition to the $7.4 million system navigator trial “to help vulnerable seniors navigate the aged care system and access services”.

The opposition’s aged care spokesperson, Julie Collins, told media that her office and those of other MPs were regularly approached by “desperate” people who could not get through to My Aged Care.

“People shouldn't have to come to an MP's office to be able to navigate a government system,” she said.

Council on the Ageing (COTA) has long been campaigning for a Centrelink-type shopfront to provide information on aged care services. Chief executive Ian Yates said his organisation believed “very strongly” there should be a face-to-face capacity.

In its pre-budget submission to the federal government, it is calling for greater choice, simplicity and more meaningful support for older people, with reform in health, aged care, and employment sectors priorities.

“We have submitted that significant funding must be allocated both to continue current reform initiatives and expedite urgent matters, including the reduction of home care package wait times to 60 days or less,” Mr Yates said.

“The government must respond by creating comprehensive, easily accessible information, assessment and case management services and programs to empower older Australians and provide the information they need to make and achieve their choices about their care and support.”

Have you planned for aged care? Or are you among the majority of older Australians who are yet to explore the sector?

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COMMENTS

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tisme
18th Feb 2020
10:55am
retirees , carers , no one seems to mention carers
flanjam
18th Feb 2020
11:03am
Agree this is another area that seems to be forgotten in the mix. As a self funded retiree I cared for my cancer ridden spouse for 5 years without recognition of any kind, then when he was declared terminal in September 2019 I approached Centrelink for assistance. Centrelink agreed that some help was needed and I received a carers payment for a couple of months until he passed. It seems that carers payments aren't a pension payment as such and can be quite flexible as some folks have a number of carers whilst others have just their partner. I feel your pain and yes it does need to be addressed. Good luck and thank you for doing a tough awesome job.
flanjam
18th Feb 2020
10:56am
Having recently tried to clear up something with this agency so far 8 calls and no resolution. Can't get to speak to the ones making the statements about what I must do to receive the care offered. So frustrating, for even Centrelink have been able to see what has happened and reflected the result quickly. Allocated a care plan three times with differing requirements re payment on my part, told the other day the assessment has been made that's where it stays until May 2020. Fine but if my circumstances change I have to notify them immediately. Rules for us - none for them.

18th Feb 2020
11:01am
Like the NDIS and Centrelink under this inept Lieberal government, MyAgedCare is a travesty.
Sceptic
18th Feb 2020
2:19pm
They are not staffed by members of the government.
hyperbole
18th Feb 2020
7:51pm
Once we go to zero emissions which is what the world apparently wants there will be no NDIS let alone a pension. Who will pay for it there will be no mining, no exports, no beef industry etc? Our economy will be stuffed. The world will survive but humans won't.
ex PS
20th Feb 2020
8:18am
No Sceptic, they are not, but they are constrained by the systems, policies and procedures imposed by the government.
You can answer calls and provide information as quick as you like, but if the quality of the information is not up to par, the result will always be sub standard.
In any business if you employ substandard strategies and get a bad result, you have to wear the blame yourself.
Departments and Agencies don't make the rules and pfovide the funding and resources, the government does.
floss
18th Feb 2020
11:16am
Yes the Libs just stagger from one crises to another .The old and the weak seem to be the ones feeling the pain the wealthy seem to be doing very well under the Libs ,some things never change.
sainter
18th Feb 2020
12:17pm
Any surprise floss,this LNP govt want people to work till your 100,and not many of us live that long,the Libs have always been the party for the rich and greedy,it will never change no matter what rot you here coming out of a Libs mouth.
sainter
18th Feb 2020
12:17pm
Any surprise floss,this LNP govt want people to work till your 100,and not many of us live that long,the Libs have always been the party for the rich and greedy,it will never change no matter what rot you here coming out of a Libs mouth.
Linda
18th Feb 2020
11:19am
We faced most of these issues during the time when My Aged Care was being rolled out. I had lots of contact with them and my questions got different answers so I lost faith in the verasity of their info. Then we did get a low level home care package but the provider (since out of business), was taking too much of the value of the package for their case management and admin services. They were also misleading those with packages and were cadgey with their contracts with us. In these more recent days, the big mystery of how much residential care would cost us was never known until after he was placed and the options were few at the time he needed a placement. Trying to talk to someone and know that they knew what they were doing was a major challenge. 17 years ago when my partner retired, our capitol city had an office that was set up exclusively for retired Australians. It was like a one stop shop to get information and support. Not long after he retired this exclusive service was removed and the oldies were put in with everyone, job seekers, disability. That was when the specialist advice dried up. Since then, the arrangements for retired people and seeking support and residential care has been a confusing and time wasting process that is very frustrating to get reliable and accurate information. Issues with home support packages were around availability and people avoiding being ripped off by some providers who took too much of the money allocated to the package for themselves. Since then, there have been some improvements, however the whole sector faces so much change and fiddling around that people can't know what is what from one day to the next. Australian's are suffering. We are all grateful that there is support and that there is residential care when it is needed but we should not have to make a career out of understanding the rules and the costs. It is all very complex. One terrible issue is around getting an assessment. This is the first step in being eligible for services. It was done by State employees where I live and now I gather there is public and private operators. It may be that the private operators charge and maybe the fees are not the same. It could be that only the folks who can or are prepared to pay can get a timely assessment. From here, it looks like everything to do with seniors is overly complex, and possibly very unfair. This is at a time when pensioners face new laws and rules around their retirement arrangements. The home support packages have very complex contracts. Vulnerable people in old age should not have to be concerned about being ripped off and having to pay more than others for the same kinds of services. It seems to be a sign of the times.
Linda
18th Feb 2020
11:26am
It feels like the monster of My Aged Care and the general arrangements for retirees has no head, just a bunch of detached limbs that operate in isolation. Has the government never heard of systems design? Have they lost the ability to communicate or are they just running cons like the robo debt scheme? It is most unsatisfactory.
older&wiser
18th Feb 2020
11:33am
I used to work for a service provider, paying support staff from Agencies to Aged Care facilities.
There are far too many service providers with far too many big wigs, and too little on the ground workers. All this money the government talks about being spent on Aged Care? - yes, allot of it, too much of it, goes to the provider, not the actual workers.
Eg - the worker would get paid $27.00 an hour (and usually that was a good rate) - but the provider would bill the govt $37.00 and hour.
Anonymous
18th Feb 2020
1:06pm
I guess with your experience, you could throw a lot more light on how this sector (Aged Care at Home) can be improved? Would be good to know for many people here.

With my limited knowledge, I believe the Minister is correct that calls are answered quite quickly, and people on the phone are quite helpful - far cry from Centrelink! However, not sure how well the services operate thereafter.

I did find the online system only works with certain versions of software, and even Apple Mac versions of say 5+ years ago don't work. So, instead of wasting a lot of money on computer systems, I would think keeping the phone system & staff strong would be helpful, besides face-to-face contact as and when needed. The system must work for the people!
Horace Cope
18th Feb 2020
11:36am
I see a huge problem with aged care being exclusively online or telephone contact only. Older people didn't grow up with computers and explaining complicated matters on the telephone is not always suitable for everyone. Systems such as this are designed by public servants who work with computers all day, every day and they can't envisage those who can't use a computer. They have assumed too much. More people in Centrelink offices are the answer, at least as regards dealing with older people.
Anonymous
18th Feb 2020
1:10pm
You were going OK, till you mentioned Centrelink! It is VERY important to keep this service as far away from the Centrelink monster as possible (see my comments just above yours)!

Although, I am aware of one link with Centrelink - My Aged Care database (belonging to Dept of Health) is run by Centrelink, hence there is a danger of your suggestion coming true in future!
Lookfar
18th Feb 2020
2:26pm
Horace, I fully agree with your arguments on computer illiteracy with older folk, - it is a fact and to grind the computer illiterate under as if they had committed some crime by being old is a total failure of our society.
veepee
18th Feb 2020
1:01pm
43,000 unanswered calls! The the Minister claims calls are answered within 30 seconds and those unanswered were wrong numbers or callers ' changed their minds'.!!!! What an appalling example of unadulterated spin. More likely people gave up after their many calls rang out. One can't blame the obviously overburdened workers - clearly they are understaffed - but the constant lies of this government are unforgiveable, and only worse since a Marketing Spin Doctor has taken the helm.
Mac
18th Feb 2020
3:04pm
Veepee,

Yes, it seems that unadulterated spin/marketing propaganda is the method of communication these days.

Do politicians take classes in unadulterated spin, i.e. part of their indoctrination into the party to which they belong or is it a natural talent necessary to become a politician?
moama jock
18th Feb 2020
1:12pm
Minister Colbeck states average delay time on calls is 30 seconds.

I state bulldust. My three calls remained unanswered for upwards of 8 minutes Gave up
travelman
18th Feb 2020
1:35pm
This article just reinforces my long standing belief that this government, from top to bottom is nothing more than a sick joke. Democracy - what democracy? Our politicians, I doubt if they have a basic idea what democracy is let alone how to practice it.
travelman
18th Feb 2020
1:35pm
This article just reinforces my long standing belief that this government, from top to bottom is nothing more than a sick joke. Democracy - what democracy? Our politicians, I doubt if they have a basic idea what democracy is let alone how to practice it.
KSS
18th Feb 2020
1:44pm
More sensationalist reporting from SMH and regurgitated here. What is missing is how many calls did My Aged Care helpline answer in the same time period?

A bit of perspective is needed here.
KSS
18th Feb 2020
1:44pm
More sensationalist reporting from SMH and regurgitated here. What is missing is how many calls did My Aged Care helpline answer in the same time period?

A bit of perspective is needed here.
Suzie Cockroach
18th Feb 2020
1:57pm
I recently had reason to access the Aged Care website and though I am not a geek am reasonably proficient in using the internet. I found this website very confusing and user unfriendly!
For a government dept it is atrocious in its complexity for older Australians!
Hairy
18th Feb 2020
3:50pm
When are public going to realise that politicians all talk utter bullshit and lies.take a look at the rubbish they come away with in parliament mr speaker mr speaker mr speaker. Cat calls just utter time wasting bunch of bloody crooks taking money for nothing . If the time they wasted was contructive what a greaf country this could be. Until these disgracefull humans ars gone nothing is going to change.its just bloody pantomine certainly not a job .
Midge
18th Feb 2020
5:12pm
I was taken ill in early August last year and spent 10 weeks in hospital, when I came home Transition Care came four times a week to do washing, cleaning, shopping, and helping me shower and make my bed. that was for a 12 week period which finished at the end of December, they phoned Aged Care and said I still needed a bit of help with cleaning and was told they would write to me. I still haven't heard anything from them .
Crazy Horse
18th Feb 2020
6:59pm
I had an "aged care assessment" last year. The very nice lady who came (an OT) assessed that I need help. I'm still waiting.
KSS
18th Feb 2020
7:50pm
Then your beef is with the service provider not the MyAgeCare helpline.
cupoftea
18th Feb 2020
10:43pm
There job is not to help people as they nave been told public servant are the same as politicians I am ok
cupoftea
18th Feb 2020
11:10pm
I have only work for 50yrs what do I expect nothing, work 10 yrs as a pollie and get every thing
ex PS
20th Feb 2020
8:28am
It seems that the government is trying to meet the self imposed demand for a fake budget surpluss, by deliberatley making it impossible to access government services. This has the immediate but temporary effect of giving the appearence of a fake surplus.
SOOTIE from marketing strikes again.