Jan 19, 2023

Victorian council secretly votes to axe home care services

Victorian council secretly votes to axe home care services

Another Victorian council has secretly scrapped its delivery of in-home care services, leaving thousands of residents without aged care services while relying on private providers to pick up the slack.

Whitehorse City Council, located in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, voted to axe its in-home care services from July in a confidential meeting last October, only notifying residents by mail after the decision had been made. 

The loss of services will affect approximately 2,500 residents and almost 200 staff.

Local resident and in-home care recipient Desley Conroy, 86, told The Age she was ropeable after reading that she had just lost her valuable home care services.

“When I first got the letter from the Council I was really angry as it seemed to be very quiet and under the carpet, it seemed to me to be very suspicious,” said Ms Conroy. 

“It is unfair and unjust and it is ageist. Because of my age, I’m 86, I’m not worthy of making my own decisions about who my provider is. 

“I am being told, ‘Well sorry you don’t have any rights to this, Madam’. I think it is sexist as well because the majority of people in the older age groups are female.”

Ms Conroy’s experience is not isolated as more than 25 Victorian councils have stopped providing home care services, including The City of Ballarat, The City of Booroondara and the Mornington Peninsula Shire.

Decisions by local councils to drop home care services have been influenced by the loss of block funding and the Federal Government’s introduction of the Support at Home Program which will replace existing programs such as the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and Home Care Packages (HCP).

Expected to launch in July 2024, the Government will no longer provide funding directly to councils but instead will fund home care recipients who can then use those funds for local services.

Without the upfront funding, which was based on the number of residents in a council area, councils have opted to scrap the services entirely to reduce costs.

Whitehorse City Council reportedly claims it will save $5 million annually by handballing the services to private aged care providers. 

The decision has sparked backlash from aged care advocates, including Elder Care Watch founder, Carol Williams.

Ms Williams said the decision has care recipients “in the dark and worried” and that they deserved to be included in discussions about their services.

“The law does not, however, compel secrecy,” said Ms Williams. 

“It is still a Council decision to go behind closed doors. The threshold decision ‘do we continue or abandon home care’ could still be debated in public.

“For a matter of such profound importance to many vulnerable residents, Council failure to disclose – at least until such time as it is too late for anything to be done about it – is at best disappointing and at worst disturbing.”

A spokeswoman for the Whitehorse City Council told The Age that councillors could not publicly debate the topic as some information included “commercial, personnel and contractual sensitivities” that had to remain private.

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  1. I am an older woman who was receiving council home help through Boroondara council. When they cancelled their services. it took four months for the private provider to commence services. I am able to follow up myself and kept following up for a commencement date. Their reason for delays was lack of staff. If I had not pursued this, I wonder if I would still be waiting for service.

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