New care packages a ‘drop in the ocean’

More than 6000 new home care packages are to be released to support older Australians stay at home for longer, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck have announced.

They also said that Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety would be extended until 26 February 2021.

The royal commission was to hand down its final report in November but was suspended for three months due to COVID-19. In two interim reports, the commission has been highly critical of the quality of aged care and is urging the government to almost double its financial support of the sector, from $27 billion to $47 billion.

“This [new packages] is about ensuring that Australians, as they age, have greater choices, that families have greater choices,” Mr Morrison said, adding that the 6100 extra packages would be rolled out immediately.

About 50,000 in-home packages have been added since the 2018/19 budget at a cost of $3 billion, but figures released in April revealed that more than 104,000 older Australians were still waiting for packages that had been approved for them.

The new funding will be split between level one, two and three packages.

Opposition aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins said the extra packages were a “drop in the ocean” with no new level four packages for more than 21,000 older Australians desperately waiting for the highest level of support.

“Time and time again, the Morrison government’s miserly announcements of new home care packages have failed to address the true scale of Australia’s aged care crisis,” Ms Collins said.

Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) said the new packages were welcome, but much more needed to be done.

Chief executive Ian Yates said it was vital to reduce waiting times for packages to a maximum of two months after assessment.

“The 6100 additional home care packages announced today will mean more people than ever will receive home care, but it’s still unacceptable that people can wait for over a year for high care at home after they have been assessed as needing it,” he said.

“We know that older Australians want to live at home as long as they can. The government must support them by fully funding home care so they can avoid moving out of their local community and into residential care before it’s absolutely necessary.”

Even with the new additions, many people would be left waiting for more than 12 months before they receive their care package, Mr Yates said, adding that the royal commission was a once-in-a-generation chance to enact major reform and ensure high quality and appropriate aged care.

“Our aged care system must provide care that is consumer centred and controlled and grounded in the standards of respect and dignity for all consumers tailored to older people’s diverse and individual needs. There can be no one-size-fits-all approach …” he said.

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), the leading body for non-profit aged care providers, says the extension to the royal commission is vital.

“There simply hasn’t been the time or capacity to properly investigate the solutions to the reform challenges that aged care faces,” said ACSA chief executive Patricia Sparrow.

“We must properly investigate the reforms needed to ensure aged care is delivering the care and support older Australians need, including how we will pay for this as a community.

“Whatever funding model we end up with, it needs to be based on what older people need. We’ve only just been asked for input on funding models, so the extension is very welcome and a serious conversation is overdue,” Ms Sparrow said.

“But none of this means that urgent action isn’t required. We’re yet to see a full response to the sector’s united call for a COVID-19 response package and the fact that 60 per cent of all residential care facilities are operating at a loss.”

Do you have a home care package? Or are you waiting for a home care package? Do you believe 6100 packages will make a meaningful difference?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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