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Increases to access of home care needs “immediate action”

A number of recommendations have been put forward alongside immediate calls for change by a coalition of leading church and not-for-profit aged care peak bodies, with the hope of tackling the ongoing issue of home care package shortages across the nation.

"Immediate action" is being sought to address the lack of access to home care across Australia (Source: Shutterstock)

The cause for concern by the coalition group comes from recent data which indicated that the number of people on a waiting list for a Home Care Package (HCP) has grown to nearly 105,000 people, including 40,000 people who have been allocated a lower package then they have been approved to receive.

In addition, the group has also highlighted that it is still not clear how current funding commitments will meet the projected need of about 140,000 HCPs by 2021-22 - an extra 66,000 packages.

“It is important for people to get the care they need at home for their quality of life and also to avoid or defer a move to costlier permanent residential aged care,” the group says.

“An inability to access a home care package when it is needed may severely limit the support choices of an older person.”

To work through the ongoing issue, the group has made a number of recommendations, including:

  • Increasing investment in home care, including immediately releasing more HCPs, in particular more level 3 and 4, to directly reduce the number of clients waiting for care and support
  • Ensuring adequate resourcing of a skilled, integrated assessment service to ensure the prioritisation process is as effective and efficient as it can be
  • Reducing the wait time for commencement of support services for those on the waitlist by putting systems in place to flag situations where people need support to navigate the process of finding a provider once a HCP is assigned, and to provide that support, then reduce the decision making period for activating a HCP from 56 to 28 days, and review unspent funds in HCPs to ensure maximum use of available funds to support individuals needs

The coalition acknowledges that the aged care sector has been working hard with government to implement reforms that enable older people to remain living in their own homes for as long as they choose to as well as the positive step made in February 2017’s Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms, which made the number of people waiting for a HCP transparent, allowing for “better support planning to better meet the needs of older Australians”.

Federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt acknowledges the important role of home care, and says supporting the provision of adequate home care is a top Turnbull Government priority.

 “Our landmark Increasing Choices in Home Care reforms are bedding down and further empowering consumers,” he explains.

 “The latest figures reveal a record rollout of 50,000 home care packages in the December quarter, with this continuing at a rate of around 3,000 per week.

 “Thousands of senior Australians are also benefiting from home support provided through the Government’s $5.5 billion investment in the Commonwealth Home Support Program.

 Home care service provision is also being streamlined through a $20 million revamp of the MyAgedCare information and allocation system.”

 Regarding the group’s recommendations, Minister Wyatt says the Government is already evaluating these, in the context of the Tune Legislative Review of aged care.

 “On the issue of unspent funds, I have already asked the Aged Care Funding Authority to review this and provide advice,” he says.

“The Government’s recently released 6,000 additional level 3 and 4 HCPs was also welcomed by the coalition, though they note that “this has alleviated only a small amount of pressure in the system.”

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