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Latest home care data highlights need for urgent action

New data released by the Department of Health has raised concerns and led to calls for more to be done after it was revealed that the queue for older Australians seeking Government subsidised home care packages has grown by 14 percent to over 101,500 in the last quarter.

Home care packages are once again at the heart of conversation thanks to the latest Government report (Source: Shutterstock)
Home care packages are once again at the heart of conversation thanks to the latest Government report (Source: Shutterstock)

Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA) is heading movement for urgent action saying the data from the Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) program, released last week, “clearly” shows that the program is facing compounding challenges and that further financial and operational investment is needed to successfully implement the reforms.

LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney says the data from the last quarter underlines the urgent need for a review of Government resourcing of it’s ICHC reforms.

“This obvious shortfall in resourcing is not only impacting the care available to older Australians but providers are also facing increased challenges to deliver appropriate services and manage risks associated with unmet care needs,” he says.

“The quarterly report showed that as at 30 September more than 60,000 consumers were waiting to be assigned a package and 41,000 were receiving services below their assessed level of need.

“The report also showed that 79,000 people nationally were on the queue for a high-level package, up from 67,000 at the end of June, despite the average number of daily approvals for a package growing by 24 percent since March 2017.”

Mr Rooney says the home care reforms - which aim to support consumer choice - are “absolutely right in principle”, but were being challenged by the implementation of significant system changes, whilst also straining to keep up with growing demand.

“In the short term, we believe more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most, including re-allocating inactive packages and utilising unspent funds in existing packages,” he says.

“Looking towards next year’s Budget, a significant injection of funding will also be required to address the current waiting list and to make the system sustainable in the longer term.”

Despite the alarming figures, Mr Rooney has welcomed the transparency of information made available through the Department of Health’s quarterly release of the Home Care Package Programme Data Reports, saying the data provides a “robust lens” through which we can see how the ICHC program is performing and inform improvements to the way subsidised care is delivered to older Australians in their homes.

This transparency has been acknowledged by Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt who has released a statement in light of the report and reflects on the current government’s commitment to transparency when it comes to the home care package issue.

He states that their commitment to this transparency has exposed the “extent of the home care mess” that he attributes to the previous government, also saying that the recent ICHC reforms brought much needed transparency, accountability and visibility that has not been seen.

“Under our reformed and unified national queue system, details are published quarterly and the true extent of Australia’s home care demand is being revealed,” the statement from the Minister says.

“Under the old system, many of the people waiting for home care packages were really in limbo.

“Now, we know the true numbers and we are committed to extending their home care options providing customers with greater choice and control.”

Minister Wyatt also reflected on the government’s “support” of home care choices in his statement and made note of the recent reweighting a portion of the lower level home care packages and released an additional 6,000 Level 3 and 4 home care packages, for people needing higher-level care.

He says that while these packaged will assist “thousands of people, we are committed to continuing reform as we rectify the Labor home care debacle”.

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