A new federal government website, to be developed to assist people in navigating their way through the complexities of the aged care sector, has “confused and frustrated” some private providers of aged care information services who are already offering the service to consumers – and at a “fraction of the cost”.
The My Aged Care website, recently included in the federal budget, is expected to launch by the end of the 2012-13 financial year, as part of the $198 million Aged Care Gateway.
DPS Publishing chief executive officer, David Baker (pictured), says informing and educating consumers about their choices is imperative, but the government’s efforts to do so will, unnecessarily, be at the costly expense of the taxpayer.
“Essentially what the government will be doing is providing a service which is already being provided. Why would they want to duplicate information already out there and offered by the private sector - and available to the consumer at a fraction of the cost? It just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Baker says.
While Council on the Ageing (COTA) chief executive, Ian Yates, told the ABC last week, “you don’t have all the [aged care] information in one place, up-to-date and accurate”, Mr Baker refutes the comments, labelling the claims as “absolutely incorrect”.
DPS Publishing has been a highly respected print and online private provider of quality, ‘up-to-date’ aged and community care information for more than a decade.
DPS Publishing remains a favourite information source as it educates consumers on the care available, and the financial and legal aspects to consider before moving to an aged care facility or retirement village. The DPS Guide to Aged Care and its website www.AgedCareGuide.com.au provides a comprehensive directory of high and low level care homes, as well as home-care services in each state and territory.
“If the government is serious about providing a quality one-stop service, it would consult with current private providers prior; and I suspect [the government] would come to the conclusion that it doesn’t need to duplicate what is already there,” Mr Baker says.
According to Mr Baker, the federal government launched a website in about 2004 titled Aged Care Australia, which is reportedly similar to the proposed My Aged Care website.
“The information on Aged Care Australia was not comprehensive and up-to-date like the information on our website (AgedCareGuide.com.au). Aged Care Australia was supposed to be ‘bigger than Ben Hur’, but it turned out to be a real fizzer, and not as many people use that site as they do ours,” he says.
Research conducted by DPS News reveals Aged Care Australia has not been updated in more than eight months.
Mr Baker likens My Aged Care to sites like MySchool and MyUniversity, which consumers reportedly do not use often; and confidently reaffirms there will be no long-term implications to DPS as a result of the government’s new website.
“The greatest issue is when people are facing the need for care, they are not only dealing with the practicality of needing care, but also with emotional, financial and social impacts of being told their life is going to change.
“Aged care is quite a difficult process to go through; from being completely independent to requiring assistance. The reality is people are confused, but the government injecting a lot of money towards an aged care information gateway will not be the solution.”
Echoing Mr Baker’s thoughts is Ben Hannemann, managing director of private information service provider, Aged Care Online.
Launched in 2005, Aged Care Online is targeted at helping consumers search for aged care alternatives online and has more than 5,200 care and service providers listed in its online directory.
“The department has had a number of initiatives like this; but there’s absolutely no point in recreating the wheel because there is already some fantastic work being done by information providers such as DPS and Aged Care Online,” Mr Hannemann says.
He maintains the problem does not lie with the “huge dollars” being spent to develop My Aged Care; rather the issue of accessibility which is most concerning.
“Users often find it difficult to navigate through government websites. People are searching for choices and points of difference,” he says, adding the website’s ‘star-rating’ feature will be a “flawed” measure in an attempt to ‘separate’ "good aged care facilities from the bad.”
Mr Hannemann claims there will always be a “fundamental difference” between private and public providers.
“My Aged Care will be very much generic in structure, whereas private providers have their own voice and unique messages to send to the consumer… and I think there will always be the need for that,” he says.
As a consumer, share your thoughts on the federal government’s My Aged Care website. What type of information do you want to see on websites dedicated to aged and community care information?