Dec 13, 2017

Aged Care Peak Bodies Concerned Over Home Care Packages

More and more Australians are choosing to stay at home longer, before moving into residential aged care.

And with changes in Consumer Directed Care earlier this year, there were thousands of new home care packages available for those that are eligible.

The Home Care Packages Program provides older people who want to stay at home with access to a range of ongoing personal services, support services and clinical care that help them with their day-to-day activities.

However, the demand for home care packages has grown, and is not being met, with an increase of 14 per cent to over 101,500 in the last quarter, according to Home care packages program data report.

Aged care peak body Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) are concerned about the challenges Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) program.

LASA CEO, Sean Rooney, says the data from the last quarter shows that there is an urgent need to review the Government’s resourcing of the ICHC reforms. This also includes more investment needed to implement the reforms.

“This obvious shortfall in resourcing is not only impacting the care available to older Australians but providers are also facing increased challenges to deliver appropriate services and manage risks associated with unmet care needs,” he says.

“The quarterly report showed that as at 30 September more than 60,000 consumers were waiting to be assigned a package and 41,000 were receiving services below their assessed level of need.”

“The report also showed that 79,000 people nationally were on the queue for a high-level package, up from 67,000 at the end of June, despite the average number of daily approvals for a package growing by 24 percent since March 2017.”

Rooney says the home care reforms are “absolutely right in principle” as they are supposed to give consumers more choice and control.

However, the growing demands are straining the system, and there have been issues in implementing the system changes.

“In the short term, we believe more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most, including re-allocating inactive packages and utilising unspent funds in existing packages,” he says.

“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.”

Aged & Community Services Australia said the latest home care data shows an unacceptably high number of people waiting for home care services.

“Nationally, there are now 60,702 consumers still without any package assigned -an increase of almost 7,000 people nationally in the last three months,” said Pat Sparrow, CEO of ACSA. “It is an unacceptable number of people without the care they need. It is a worrying trend that shouldn’t be allowed to continue.”

“The lack of provision of care for those who need it, underscores the importance -and urgency – of more investment in delivering care services at home.”

“The provision of transparent data such as this is critical to gaining a better understanding of the demand for home care at a national level, and the areas where resources are needed most. When considering how to best provide for those older Australians wanting services at home, ACSA urges the government to give serious consideration to the recommendations put forward in the Legislated Review, including the addition of Level 5 packages.”

The number of consumers in home care packages grew just 1.2 per cent to 71,243 consumers, in the three months between 31 March and 30 June, 2017, suggesting a mismatch of demand with supply and a growing backlog of consumers yet to receive the care they need, said Ms. Sparrow.

“More must be done to provide the funding required to deliver timely care to those who need it,” said Ms. Sparrow.

“When reflecting on this data, and ways to better deliver more timely home care, it would be wise for the government to revisit some of the recommendations of the Legislated (Tune) Review which deals specifically with increasing access to home care packages.

“But realistically, the level of unmet demand for home care packages, particularly at Level 3 & 4, is an issue that can only be addressed with more overall investment.”

Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt released a statement after the release of the Home care packages program data report, explaining that their commitment transparency has exposed the “extent of the home care mess”.

He explained that the new ICHC reforms have brought transparency, accountability and visibility that has not been seen.

“Under our reformed and unified national queue system, details are published quarterly and the true extent of Australia’s home care demand is being revealed,” the statement from the Minister says.

“Under the old system, many of the people waiting for home care packages were really in limbo.

“Now, we know the true numbers and we are committed to extending their home care options providing customers with greater choice and control.”

Minister Wyatt also announced that there would be an additional 6,000 Level 3 and 4 home care packages, for people needing higher-level care.

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