The City of Ballarat has joined a growing number of Victorian councils that have rejected the Federal Government’s new Support at Home Program, instead choosing to introduce their own “council service model” to support older residents at home.
It’s anticipated that almost 80% of Victoria’s 79 councils will discontinue their in-home care programs as the Government moves away from block funding – a set amount of funding provided to organisations and councils based on the total number of residents in their area.
The Support at Home Program, which has seen its introduction pushed back from July 2023 to July 2024, instead provides funding directly to the person receiving care, rather than the provider. This is so the person receiving care can choose where their money is spent.
The introduction of the new program was pushed back as the Federal Government addressed recent feedback, and opened a new consultation period for the public. The delay also allows home care providers more time to prepare for changes.
Evan King, City of Ballarat Chief Executive Officer (CEO) said he informed council staff that “after much consideration” they will no longer deliver Commonwealth-funded in-home services when the Government transitions to the new Support at Home Program.
“The City of Ballarat proposes to initiate a new council service model that provides social support, community transport and other active ageing services that aim to reduce social isolation and improve health and wellbeing,” Mr King said.
“The Federal Government’s Aged Care Reforms aim to create a national, simplified and integrated aged care program that provides older Australians with quality, choice, control and better access to a full range of services.”
Mr King said he is confident that the council’s new model will give the City of Ballarat an opportunity to support older residents as they have more care options to choose from that best suit their needs.
Currently, the majority of people receiving in-home care services either receive support through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or Home Care Packages (HCP) Program.
The Support at Home Program, which has been designed in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s recommendation to help older Australians live at home for longer, will replace both services across Australia.
More than two-dozen Victorian councils have made the decision to end the provision of in-home assistance for older people, with some councils already ending their in-home support services and transferring clients to local private providers.
This has led to gaps in support, with private providers struggling to pick up the slack due to low staffing numbers.
There are concerns for council staff as well, as the City of Ballarat revealed that “a number of positions” in their Ageing Well team will be impacted.
While there will be employment opportunities with private providers, wages are typically lower than what is provided by a council.
Mr King said the City of Ballarat will offer redundancies to impacted staff, while they will assist residents who transition from the council’s CHSP or HCP services to private in-home care providers.
“We also propose continuing to play an active role in ensuring our community receives high-quality aged care services and will strongly advocate for the needs of vulnerable community members,” Mr King said.
“I am confident these proposed changes will result in an outcome that ensures we meet the needs, aspirations and priorities of our older residents and our entire community.”
The Government is currently running online question and answer sessions for older Australians and stakeholders on the Support at Home Program. The submission process is open until 25 November, and more information is available on the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website.