Government leaves older Australians waiting for home care

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), Australia’s peak age services body, has released research revealing that more work needs to be done on the rollout of the Federal Government’s Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) program.   

LASA CEO Sean Rooney said data previously released by the Government shows there are over 50,000 older Australians awaiting a home care package, with a further 35,000 people receiving services below their assessed level of need.

“While this critical shortage remains the key issue, our research examining the first six months of the program rollout from February to August this year has also revealed a number of aspects of the rollout that we are seeking to work with government to address,” Mr Rooney said.

“LASA had sampled 34 home care package providers drawn from its membership, accounting for five per cent of all approved providers nationally, and representing nearly 10 per cent of all home care packages available.”

The research found that:

  • While available home care packages increased by 14 per cent from 79,000 to 90,000, there was a much smaller increase of 4.7 per cent in consumer activation of packages.
  • Premature residential care admissions due to a shortage of high-level home care packages occurred at a rate of 2.7 per cent of all packages.
  • The extent of accumulated unspent home care package funds is estimated to be between $200 and $350 million system-wide.
  • The number of package upgrades for existing home care consumers to a higher level home care package increased significantly across the six months, highlighting the effectiveness of the My Aged Care system in facilitating consumer upgrades consistent with demand.

Mr Rooney said the home care package rollout is being challenged by the implementation of significant system changes that support greater consumer choice, while the system is also straining to keep up with growing demand.

“In the short term, more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most. This should include re-allocating inactive packages and utilising the unspent funds in existing packages,” Mr Rooney said.

“In addition, looking towards next year’s Budget, a significant injection of funding will also be required to address the current waiting list and to make the system sustainable in the longer term.”

Mr Rooney said LASA recognises that the Federal Government’s reform agenda in aged care is necessary, ambitious, and is aimed at giving older Australians greater choice over the services and support they receive in their homes.

“The ICHC implementation is an evolving process with ongoing systems and process improvements in place to support the rollout of the home care reform program,” Mr Rooney said.

The Government is due to release its Home Care Package Program Data Report for the period 1 July – 30 September by the end of this month.

Read the full LASA report on home care.

What do you think? Does the Government need to do more to address the waiting list for home care packages?

Written by Ben

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