Oct 19, 2022

In-Home Aged Care reform needs sector feedback as elderly die waiting

19_10_22 in-home aged care reform

A discussion paper aiming to seek feedback for a new In-Home Aged Care program has been released, just as recent data revealed 30 older Australians die each day while waiting for Home Care Packages (HCPs).

Issues acknowledged in the paper, released yesterday, mentioned older people experienced long wait times for care, did not always get the help they needed to support their independence at home, and program arrangements were thought to be too confusing and cost too much. 

The issue of long wait times is being seen throughout the country, as older Australians die or move into aged care while on the wait list for home care.

The Federal Government wants to hear from the people who use and deliver these services to help inform and develop a new In-Home Aged Care program, as suggested by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The new program is said to begin on July 1, 2024 and the Government is aiming for it to be simpler and more timely for older people to access in-home care and understand it.

The Government wants to see the program be a one-assessment process that gives older people choice and control in determining the services they receive, with fair and transparent fees.

The discussion paper outlines five main areas of focus for the reform, including a potential new model the Government is seeking feedback on.

These main focus areas include: 

  • Making in-home aged care simple and easy for older Australians to self-manage their own care with more choice and control over services
  • Redefining the role of care partners in delivering best practice care management, ensuring they provide clinical oversight and monitoring for older Australians to respond to changing needs
  • Meeting the full costs of care while achieving value for money by improving funding arrangements and quality assurance with a new funding model
  • Flexibly respond to changing needs of older Australians by improving the assessment process with a new assessment tool and classification system
  • Fostering innovation and future investment for In-Home Aged Care by implementing the new quality indicators and star ratings 

The Government-funded support at home system supports about one million older Australians and provides a range of services including transport, clinical care, nursing and allied health.

The current program has four types of care services, including the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) for entry-level services for daily living, and Home Care Packages (HCP), which assist older Australians with more complex care needs to live independently at home, as well as Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC) options and respite care.

Older people still dying waiting for home care

This new public feedback request from the Government arrives as recent data from the Department of Health and Aged Care reveal that 30 older people are dying a day while waiting for home care.

Under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, made by 9News Melbourne,  data was released relating to the program’s waiting list, the average waiting time, and how many people died or entered residential care instead of getting home care.

The data found that between July 1, 2017, and December 31, 2021, 50,496 older Australians died while waiting to have their claims approved.

Over the same four-and-a-half year period, 57,892 older people were still waiting for assistance and had to opt to go into permanent residential care instead.

Some families also told the news organisation they were sent letters about having an application approved months after their loved one had passed away.

Currently, the average wait time is now down to between three and six months, but this time last year it was a six to nine month wait.

However, Aged Care Minister Anika Wells told 9News in a statement that older people with an urgent need for a HCP are currently being assigned their approved level HCP within one month and those with a medium priority are currently being assigned their approved level HCP within three to six months.

She also said the rate of people dying while waiting for a HCP is proportionate to the death rate in the Australian aged population.

Craig Gear, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) told 9News that older people want to stay independent in their homes for as long as possible and waiting over four weeks for in home care was unacceptable.

“While we’re seeing more packages come into the system, they’re still not adequate and no-one should have to wait more than four weeks for the appropriate level of care,” he said.

“Older people should be expecting that the care that they need should be available when they need it.”

If you want to have a say about the new potential In-Home Aged Care program, provide your feedback through this online form, by uploading a written submission or by calling 1800 318 209.

Submissions will be open until November 25, 2022, but those submitted by October 31 will help shape further consultations in November 2022.

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