The government’s latest information shows that more than 129,000 older Australians are waiting for the level of home care they need.
Those on the waiting list have been assessed as needing a particular level of care, but funding the full level of care has not come through.
Some on the home care waiting list have not been able to get any home care at all, though most did access care through another government programme.
According to the latest report from GEN, the government’s website for aged care data, as of 31 March 2019, there were 75,739 people waiting for a home care package at their approved level who had not been offered a lower level package of care.
However, almost all of these people, 94.9 per cent – 71,885 – had been given approval to access support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program.
Others have been offered a lower of care until funding for the higher level becomes available.
There were also 53,299 people who were waiting for a home care package at their approved level, but who had been offered a lower level package.
Of these people, 30,283 chose to take the lower package, 6,355 were still deciding whether or not to take up the offer, and 16,661 chose not to take up the offer of a lower level package.
Of those who had been offered a lower level package, almost all – 97.0 per cent – were approved to get support through other Commonwealth programs.
Many older Australians are waiting more than 12 months for the package they have been assessed as needing.
As of 31 December 2018, there were 93,331 people receiving home care packages, a 20 per cent increase over the year.
The shadow minister for aged care, Julie Collins MP, said in a statement, “The distressing number of older Australians waiting for care underscores the failure of Scott Morrison’s response to this ongoing crisis.”
She said under the Liberal government the waiting list for home care has risen from 88,000 to more than 129,000 older Australians.
“Reforms to aged care were meant to give older Australians the choice to age at home, but these figures confirm the Liberals’ policy chaos has failed older Australians,” she said.
“Scott Morrison again locked aged care out of Cabinet after the election and there have now been four different Ministers responsible for this policy area since the Liberals were elected.
“In January the Productivity Commission revealed the median wait time for a home care package has blown out in the last year by more than two months.
“As the list grows longer and longer, fresh stories emerge daily of older Australians waiting for care.
“Older Australians are entering residential aged care or even emergency departments instead of receiving their approved home care package,” Ms Collins said.
“Older Australians deserve better,” she said.
Aged and Community Services Australia said the new data highlights the urgent need of the government to act before the royal commission concludes.
ACSA CEO, Patricia Sparrow, said, “This data is troubling but unsurprising.”
“Being on a home care waitlist is not just an inconvenience. If people are waiting for the care they need, it can have a lasting impact on a person’s health. It can lead to increased pressure on already stretched hospitals or mean someone has to enter a residential care service.”
“Each individual story of waiting too long, and suffering as a result, should be enough to spur action,” she said.
The increase over the last three months is “unacceptable”, Ms Sparrow said.
There is a “mismatch” between the needs and expectations of Australians and the funding the sector receives, she said.