Seniors miss out on $330m funding

The Federal Government should reveal why “excessive unspent funds” meant for home care packages (HCP) are being allowed to accumulate, a seniors’ advocacy group demanded yesterday.

In an analysis of the latest government report on the packages, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said that more funds needed to be released urgently to help some of the 108,000 frail individuals who are on a list waiting for subsidised help at home.

“LASA notes that the Aged Care Financing Authority has identified unspent HCP funds of $330 million at 30 June 2017,” the group said.

“The Government needs to address the HCP waitlist crisis as a matter of urgency. There are nearly 132,000 HCP approvals made each year, with near 97,000 consumers also accessing packages.

“An estimated increase of 60,000 HCPs is required to respond to both existing and emerging demand.”

LASA said such an increase had the potential to cut the waiting list by nearly 70 per cent over three years.

The group’s call comes days after the Opposition quizzed Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt over delays in reporting on care package rollouts, without response.

The former Turnbull Government has been blasted as “inept” over the rollout as the waiting list for services blows out to more than 108,000.

Opposition Minister for Ageing and Mental Health Julie Collins told Parliament last month that thousands of senior citizens forced to wait for at-home assistance were instead ending up in nursing homes or hospital emergency wards.

“(This) is a worse outcome for them and their families and costs the community more. It is simply not good enough for the Government to say that … the 2018 Budget (is funding an extra 14,000 new individuals over four years). That’s only 3500 home-care packages a year over the forward estimates – it is not good enough when the list grew by 4000 older Australians in just the last quarter.”

Ms Collins said around 88,000 older Australians, many with dementia, were waiting for a high-level package.

“After the 2018 Federal Budget, Minister Wyatt admitted that the Government would need to consider other interventions to reduce the wait list. (But) the only thing that has happened is that the minister made the astounding decision to delay the release of the March 2018 quarter  data (on HCP) for more than three months.

“The question he needs to answer is why?

“In line with a commitment made by the Department of Health, the June 2018 data was due for release on or around the end of August.

“While older Australians languish on the waitlist many of them will not age in their own homes – many will enter residential aged care or spend their last days in Australia’s hospital system. This is totally unacceptable,” she said.

When YourLifeChoices asked Minister Wyatt’s office when the June-quarter data on home-care packages would be released, we were told he had yet to receive the data himself, but once he did “it would be released quickly thereafter”.

“In the interests of transparency, the Coalition Government is putting an unprecedented amount of home-care information in the public domain,” a spokesman for Mr Wyatt told YourLifeChoices. “The delay in the most recent report being made public was due to the Department of Health carrying out additional data analysis to provide a better understanding of the nature of the waiting list.”

LASA has requested that data on home-care services should be released within 90 days of the end of each quarter.

According to the Department of Health’s latest report on home-care:

  • 41,993 home care packages were released in the March 2018 quarter
  • there were 31,240 approvals for a home-care package in the March 2018 quarter
  • there were 77,918 people in home care at the end of last year
  • this is an increase of 5 per cent since 30 September 2017 and 13.5 per cent since 31 December 2016
  • about 9100 new individuals took up home care in the December 2017 quarter
  • there was a rise of 5.8 per cent in the number of approved care providers to 853 in the December quarter
  • at the end of March, there were 54,821 people in the National Prioritisation Queue who were either in, or assigned, a home-care package
  • this figure was 14.4 per cent, or nearly 7000 people, more than the previous quarter
  • a further 53,635 people on the queue were either not in, or assigned, a lower level home care package, bringing the total on the waiting list to 108,456.

Have you applied and received a satisfactory home-care package? Are you on a waiting list for funded home-care? Do you see the day when it may be of value to have help around the home and should the taxpayer fund the service?

Related articles:
Making a complaint about care
Govt winds back care funding
Before you seek home care …

Written by Olga Galacho

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