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Face-to-face aged care navigation support to be rolled out following successful trial report

The Federal Government will be making face-to-face support available for older Australians that need help navigating the aged care system in the future, following a trial report that backs similar recommendations in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety Final Report.

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An aged care navigation program will be rolled out in the future for older Australians to utilise when they start accessing the aged care system. [Source: Shutterstock]

The report is from the Government's evaluation of an Aged Care System Navigator trial, which found that local face-to-face support was really valuable to older Australians accessing aged care.

Federal Government will be rolling out a program called Connecting senior Australians to aged care services as part of the Government's first pillar of the Royal Commission response. The report backs up the need for supportive services when accessing aged care.

Evidence from the trial also supports a suggestion from Commissioner Lynelle Briggs AO, who put forward Final Report Recommendation 29, Care finders to support navigation of aged care, that involved specialists assisting older Australians in navigating aged care. 

The Federal Government partnered with Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA) and 30 partner organisations to run the trials starting back in October 2018.

Older people involved in the trials said they valued the services they received and users said they had improved knowledge, understanding and confidence in accessing aged care services.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, says the Federal Government was committed to making access to aged care services easier.

"We understand the difficulties senior Australians, their families and carers have faced as they make the transition to care. This face-to-face support will ensure those seeking information will be able to tap into the knowledge of local experts," says Minister Colbeck.

"The Royal Commission found that aged care required a much greater face-to-face presence to support access and utilisation, and now the Aged Care System Navigator trials evaluation supports that finding, it’s a clear indicator of the way forward.

“The report also found navigator services work best when they can be locally tailored, ensuring the appropriate level of local knowledge and flexibility to meet the needs of local seniors."

A number of different trial models were tested - information hubs, community hubs, Specialist Support Workers (SSWs), mobile information hubs, and Financial Information Service (FIS) officers - and there were some limitations around data collection for certain areas, like the appropriateness of each trial type or cost-effectiveness of each trial type.

While there is data lacking in some areas of the trial, the evaluation found that having local, holistic and flexible systems in place would help meet the needs of diverse population groups and individuals.

The evaluation also highlighted a number of important principles that should underpin the design of the system navigator service, including:

  • An appropriately trained and professional workforce

  • Independence from aged care service providers

  • Designed with the end user in mind

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, thanked COTA, its partner organisations, and Services Australia for staging the trials.

"The trials involved COTA Australia and its partners delivering different ways of providing navigation support between October 2018 and June 2020 as well as Services Australia trialling specialist aged care financial information support," says Minister Hunt. 

"The COTA-led trials have been extended to June 2021 due to disruption as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while the Royal Commission’s  investigation into issues, including navigating aged care, was ongoing."

Minister Hunt adds that older people were satisfied with their experience in the navigator service trial.

"There are also positive findings around improved experience for senior Australians who may be hard to reach or part of vulnerable population groups," says Minister Hunt.

In the May Federal Budget, the Government committed funding toward face-to-face aged care support in 325 Services Australia centres, aged care specialists in 70 additional service centres, and $93.7 million to introduce a network of up to 500 local Community Care Finders, who will provide specialist support to vulnerable older Australians.

The Government also announced an extension to the trials to continue this support until the longer-term program connecting older Australians to aged care services and navigation support, is implemented. As well as reform that will support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in navigating aged care services that are culturally safe.

To read the full report, visit the Department of Health website.

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