The discussion paper, released by Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt, calls for feedback on how any future aged care reforms can best help older Australians to live at home saying that older Australians want better choices and access to services to help them continue to live active and healthy lives in their own homes and communities.
“The reforms the Australian Government has introduced in recent years aim to put consumers in control of their care... the policy objectives and reform options in the discussion paper have been developed in response to what we have heard from the sector,” Minister Wyatt says.
“The goal is a more consumer-driven, market-based and nationally consistent system – one that is fair and supports older Australians.”
Minister Wyatt has also welcomed feedback on the Increasing Choice In Home Care changes introduced by the Federal Government in February this year, saying that before making decisions on further reforms, the government wants to hear the views of the sector and the community.
“In February this year, the Federal Government introduced Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms to give consumers more choice and control in selecting a home care provider,” Minister Wyatt says.
“While future reforms may include changes to the existing home support and home care arrangements, no decisions have been made. The government is committed to open and transparent consultation on the best way forward.”
Peak bodies for the aged care sector in Australia Council on the Ageing (COTA) and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) have both welcomed the announcement.
“We very much welcome the government’s consultation with the community, consumers and providers because we need to ensure we get aged care support in the home right,” ACSA Chief Executive Officer Pat Sparrow says.
“These are important reforms that can improve the delivery of home care services from a provider perspective and streamline the consumer experience.”
For COTA Australia’s Chief Executive Ian Yates, while welcoming the government’s continuing intention to complete the proposed merger of the Commonwealth Home Support and Home Care Packages by 2020, he also notes the delay to the original intention to create a single home care program with greater consumer control by the start date of July 2018.
“There are a number of issues that will need to be addressed between now and the 2020 merger, including whether any block funding needs to be retained, streamlining means testing, and approved provider arrangements,” Mr Yates says.
“It is absolutely imperative that we maintain the momentum to have a single program commence in July 2020 so that older Australians get the choice and control they now have in Home Care Packages across the larger home care service sector.
“We are witnessing a massive shift in aged care delivery in Australia, with older Australians looking forward to the promise of a system that will soon offer choice and control across all aged care.
“The discussion paper should be a step in the right direction to significantly improving the ways in which home care services are delivered to older Australians.”
Mr Yates also goes on to say that the concerns and interests of a few providers must not stand in the way of directions agreed by the sector as a whole through the National Aged Care Alliance and the Aged Care Roadmap already developed by the government’s own Aged Care Sector Committee.
“Faltering on the reform journey is simply not an option,” he says.
“The clock cannot be turned back now – this is an issue that will affect millions of older Australians and their families for decades to come.”
Consultation on the released discussion paper will remain open from now, until 21 August, 2017 and can be accessed through the Department of Health’s Consultation Hub.