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Income Award changes and what it means for you

The recent changes to the Award for home carers may have an unintended effect on Home Care Package recipients, with the sector expecting half of home care providers to pass on the related costs to their customers.

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According to the Health Department, any changes put forward by your provider must be "reasonable, fair and must align" with your needs and goals. [Source: iStock]

From 1 July, workers under the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 (SCHADS Award) will be paid a minimum of two hours work per shift or a portion of a broken shift.

The changes to the Award aim to encourage more workers to join or remain in the sector to improve the current home care workforce numbers.

However, home care providers have indicated that they can't afford the cost of these changes and half of providers are intending to increase their costs - by up to 20 percent.

Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), aged care industry peak body, undertook a survey of its home and community care members, which found that many providers will increase their fees due to the Award change.

Paul Sadler, Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ACCPA, says, "Clients and staff could experience disruption for some months as providers work through solutions…but there must be clear communication with clients in particular before any changes are made and agreed to.

"The Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision means that home care staff must be paid for a minimum of two hours when they go out to attend to clients even though the task may take one hour and the employee had previously been paid for [only] the one hour."

So what are the changes to the award and how will they affect you and the home care you receive?

What will change?

The changes in the SCHADS award include:

  • Casual home carers and part-time carers will be paid a minimum of two hours for each shift they undertake
  • Home carers will receive a broken shift allowance, including an even higher payment if there are two breaks in a shift
  • If a home carer works a broken shift, the minimum payment will apply to both periods of work done within that broken shift
  • Home carers will now receive a damaged clothing allowance
  • Introduction of a minimum payment and other requirements for employees who work in remote areas
  • New rules around pay and make-up time which will apply when a care recipient cancels a service

While these changes will impact the person providing you care, there is the potential that your home care provider may want to increase their fees to cover the changes or change how you receive your services.

What you should know

Peak body for older Australians, Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, says they have seen an increase in complaints about fee changes.

However, Chief Executive of COTA, Ian Yates, says you need to be aware that your provider cannot simply put fees up in a Home Care Agreement you have previously agreed to.

"Consumers need to be aware they have to agree to changes in the care plan, providers cannot dictate fee increases and other amendments," says Mr Yates.

The Department of Health has made it clear that the Award change does not mean that carers will need to spend a minimum shift of two hours with one care recipient, they can still see more than one customer at more than one location within the two hour minimum.

According to the Department, any changes put forward by your provider must be "reasonable, fair and must align" with your needs and goals.

Your provider can suggest:

  • Changing the times of when you receive home care services or the worker who visits your home
  • Combining some of the services you receive
  • Adding on more services that fit within your outlined goals and needs in your care plan
  • Price increases to services

Your provider should not:

  • Implement a minimum service charge, such as receiving only 30 minutes of care but being charged for two hours of service
  • Implement service times that are not reasonable for you or not needed
  • Add on new services that you didn't agree to or that don't fit within your needs and goals for aged care
  • Raise your home care fees without your consent or without warning - however, be mindful that if you agreed to periodic price increases within your Home Care Agreement, these changes may fall under this

The Department of Health wants to encourage home care consumers to be flexible as possible as the sector makes changes and improvements to meet these new conditions.

If fee increases or care changes have arisen with your provider and you need help, advocacy or advice, contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600 for free aged care advocacy support.

For more information on the Award changes and what it might mean for you, visit the Department of Health website.

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