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More Australians receiving home care, but overall wait list still growing

The Government’s latest home care data report shows the current ‘drip feed’ funding model is failing to reduce the overall waiting list, say industry peak bodies.

29,400 home care packages were released during the December 2018 quarter at an average of 2,260 per week. (Source: Shutterstock)
29,400 home care packages were released during the December 2018 quarter at an average of 2,260 per week. (Source: Shutterstock)

The latest Home Care Packages Program Data Report reveals the national home care queue has grown from 126,732 to 127,748 people waiting to receive a package at their approved level in the December 2018 quarter.

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt says 29,400 home care packages were released during the quarter at an average of 2,260 per week.

“The report shows the number of people with level 3 and 4 packages grew by 4,486 over the period to 39,996,” he says.

“There were 74 percent more people with a high-level home care package as at 30 September 2018 compared to 30 June 2017.”

“This support enables people to live in their homes for as long as possible, connected with family and friends, as well as remaining engaged and active in their communities,” he says.

The report shows wait times are still over 12 months for people wanting to access a high level care package.

Chief Advocate of peak consumer body National Seniors Ian Henschke says he acknowledges the Government’s additional funding commitments over recent months, but is calling on the government to provide sufficient funding to eliminate the waiting list for high needs packages in the April budget.

“We know what the problem is and it’s not new – we have an ageing population and most people want to stay in their own homes rather than go into nursing homes. That’s a good thing, because we know home care is much more cost effective than residential aged care.

“But now the government – in tandem with other key stakeholders – has to come up with the solution and we can’t wait for the Royal Commission into Aged Care to finish next year to start thinking about what it is.

“The government can’t just keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.”

While he welcomes the government’s commitment to provide an extra 20,000 packages over 2019-20, with 10,000 of those high level and 10,000 across all levels, Mr Henschke says National Seniors continues to hear from members and others whose loved ones were dying waiting for the home care they desperately needed.

Others were ending up in residential care prematurely for the same reason.

“According to the government’s figures, 96,000 people on the waiting list waiting for a home care package at their approved level also have approval for a permanent place in an aged care facility,” he says.

“It’s a bit frightening to think this number of people are considered in need of nursing home care, but can’t even get the home care package they’ve been approved for. We’re wondering just how long the government can let this situation continue.”

Chief Executive Officer of peak industry body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) Sean Rooney says soon to-be-released survey data from LASA also shows that maximum wait times are often much longer than times stated in the Government report.  

“LASA’s data suggests that even those on interim packages often pass away or enter hospital or residential care before receiving the package that they were assessed to need,” he says.

“Recent announcements by Government to increase or bring forward the release of new packages are helpful, but they still leave too many people waiting far too long with no certainty that they will ever receive the care they need.

“In commenting on this data it is important to acknowledge the Government’s commitment to transparency by making information on the queue available.”

Mr Rooney says LASA is calling on the Government to set a maximum home care package of no more than three months and welcomes upcoming Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings that are set to focus specifically on home care.

“We fully support the Royal Commission as an opportunity for this country to build a better system to support the growing numbers of older Australians.”

View the Home Care Packages Program Data Report here.  

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