Staying at home

Most of us want to stay in our own home for as long as possible. But we need to ensure we will be safe in our homes, so understanding on an ongoing basis what services are available will ensure we make the right choices.

A range of community care programs are available to help us remain at home – although home care may only be suitable if we employ the support of friends or family. Some of the home care packages replicate the care received in a residential care service.

The Government funds and encourages a range of community care (at-home) programs and sets the maximum fee that can be charged for those approved for government support.

Home support

The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) Program provides a range of home care services which can meet the needs of an individual. These services can enable older Australians to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible.

CSHP services include:

home help - cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing
home modifications and maintenance
social support - such as banking and transport
food services - Meals on Wheels, help with shopping, centre-based meals
personal care - help with bathing and dressing
community respite - to give carers a break or for people living alone.
health services - such as home and community nursing, physiotherapy and podiatry.

You may be required to pay a small fee for the services you access, depending on the fees set by the service providers.

You can enquire about CHSP services through and arrange for a Regional Assessment Service (RAS) assessment to determine your suitability.  

Home care packages

Home care packages are co-ordinated care packages provided in your home. 

This type of care may delay the need to move into residential care as it enables you to receive care in your home. The care provided covers:

Personal services – such as showering, dressing and mobility
Support services – such as help with laundry, cleaning and transport
Clinical care – such as nursing and other health services

These packages provide similar services to the CHSP programs but in a more consolidated package and with a specific budget value available to you. 

Home care is generally provided to older people but there is no minimum age limit. You will just need an approval from an Aged Care Assessment Team or Service (ACAT/ACAS) to be eligible for government subsidies. If approved, the Government pays a large part of the costs and you pay a small cost, depending on your income.

How to access a home care package

The steps to apply for a package are:

  1. Arrange an ACAT/ACAS assessment (can be arranged through
  2. If approved, you will receive a confirmation letter and be added to the National Queue to wait for an available package to be allocated – this could take months.
  3. Once a package is available and is allocated to you, you will receive a letter with an access code. You need to select an approved provider to administer your package. You have only 56 days to make the decision. (See the section below on who provides services)
  4. You need to work with the service provider to determine the package of services you want, who will provide those services and how they will be provided. The administrator you have chosen may have restrictions on what they will allow. Once agreed, you sign a Home Care Agreement and the provider will use the code you were given to unlock the government subsidies.
  5. If you are a self-funded retiree you will need to complete an SA456 – Income Assessment for Home Care form to have your contribution fees calculated. If you receive a means-tested payment from Centrelink of Veterans' Affairs, this is automatically calculated from the details held on file.  

These services will then commence. If you are unhappy with your adminstrative service provider you can switch your package to a new provider, but you may be charged an exit fee.

The ACAT/ACAS approval will specify which level of home care package for which you are eligible:

Level 1 – basic care needs
Level 2 – low-level care needs
Level 3 – intermediate care needs
Level 4 – high-level care needs

These packages provide a budget of between $11,844 and $53,279 per year to pay for care, as well as the administration package. This includes the contribution you are asked to pay.

While these packages can help you delay the move into residential care, they may only suit if you have family members or friends to support the care in your home or you can pay for additional services. 


Aged Care Lifetime Expectations


Plan ahead. While you are waiting for approval, you can access services privately, but you will need to be able to pay the full costs.

Who provides home care?

The services can be provided by a range of providers, including small community based groups to large charitable organisations, government bodies or for-profit businesses.

Aged Care Lifetime Expectations


Search online at for details of care providers in your area.

The budget for home care packages is allocated specifically to you but you need to choose an approved home care provider who will administer this package on your behalf. This administration includes setting up your care plan, ensuring care is provided, paying the expenses and reporting on how your budget has been spent and how much is still available.

It is important to do your research carefully to determine how much flexibility you want and the service provider allows, whether you can choose other providers to provide some of the care and costs of their services (including exit fee).

What will home care cost?

Home care services are subsidised by the Government but you will also be asked to contribute towards the cost of your care.

CHSP services

If you are accessing CHSP services you will be asked to pay a small fee. This fee is set by the service provider and depends on its fee structure and the services you access. Special arrangements may be offered if you cannot afford to pay. You should agree on the fee to be charged for care services directly with your service provider.

Home Care packages

If you receive services under a Home Care package the contribution you pay is calculated by the Government and is based on your assessable income.

If you take up a Home Care package you can be asked to pay:

A basic fee of $10.10 per day (this is set at 17.5 per cent of a single basic pension and so is indexed on 20 March and 20 September) plus
An income-tested fee if you receive only part of a means-tested pension or are self-funded.

Aged Care Lifetime Expectations


It is important to note that the daily fees are payable every day of the year and not just the days that a service provider provides some care.

Some providers may ask you to pay the basic daily care fee, however, it is important to understand that, due to a lower package value, this reduces the amount of services that you can receive.


Helen's Story

Helen lives with her son Arthur, but she needs help to continue living at home. An ACAT/ACAS team visits Helen and assesses that she is eligible for a Home Care package.

Helen receives the full Age Pension so she will pay a fee of $10.10 per day (current to 19 September 2017). This is a total of $3686.50 per year. If Helen received only a part Age Pension or was self funded, she may pay a higher fee based onn her assessable income.

Her total package value could be worth up to $53,279, depending on which package was approved. The remainder of the cost is paid by the Government.

How do I calculate the income-tested fee for home care?

If you receive a full-means tested pension from Centrelink or Veterans’ Affairs you will not pay an income-tested fee for home care packages. You will just pay the $10.10 per day (indexed) basic daily fee (unless the provider exempts you from paying this fee).

If you only receive a part-means tested pension or are self-funded you may be asked to pay an income-tested fee as a contribution towards your care. This reduces how much the Government pays on your behalf. The first step to calculate the income-tested fee includes:

Payments received from Centrelink / Veterans’ Affairs (but with deductions for any minimum pension supplement or energy supplement included in these payments)
Deemed income on your financial investments (eg bank accounts, term deposits, managed funds, shares and excess gifts)
The portion of income from a pension or annuity that is assessable under Centrelink/Veterans’ Affairs rules
Other assessable income from employment (spouse), private trusts or companies, rental income etc.

If you are a member of a couple you need to add all of your joint assessable income and then split it equally. Your half is then used to calculate your income-tested fee. This is shown in the table below.

Income amount

Income-tested fee payable

Below income-free area of:

  • $26,176.80 pa single person
  • $25,708.80 pa each for an illness separated couple
  • $20,339.80 pa each for a couple combined


Between income-free area (above) and upper income threshold of:

  • $50,559.60 pa single person
  • $50,091.60 pa each for an illness separated couple
  • $38,719.20 pa each for a couple combined

Lower of:

  • Cost of care
  • 50% income above income-free area plus $5276.08


But: capped at $10,522.18 per year ($63,313 lifetime)

Over upper income threshold (above)

Lower of:

  • Cost of care
  • 50% income above upper threshold + $5187.97


But: capped at $10,522.18 year ($63,313 lifetime)

Rates current to 30 June 2018

Dee's Story


Brian and Dee are living at home but Dee needs more care than Brian can provide on his own. Dee has been approved for Home Care by ACAT/ACAS.

They receive a part Age Pension. Including this pension and their investments they have assessable income of $46,000 ($23,000 each). They are not an illness-separated couple as they are both still living in the home.

Dee will pay:

  • Basic fee - $10.10 per day ($3686.50 per year) plus
  • Income-tested fee - $3.79 per day ($1382.10 per year)

The income-tested fee was calculated as:

      ($23,000 - $20,235.80) x 0.50 = $1382.10 per year

The raimder of the cost is paid by the Government.

This article is prepared by the strategy specialists at Aged Care Steps, a company supporting financial planning advisers who provide planning advice for aged care. To find a professional adviser who specialises in aged care advice go to and click on the Find an Adviser link.

Disclaimer: This is general advice and does not take into account your particular circumstances or objectives. Before taking any action you should seek personal financial planning, taxation or legal advice and refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before investing in any product. Aged Care Steps Pty Ltd ABN 42 156 656 843, AFSL 486723, registered tax (financial) advisers 25581502.

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Older Australians want to stay at home but face a confusing array of options.