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More needed for Increasing Choice in Home Care

Australia’s severe lack of home care support and the need for more work to be done on the rollout of the Federal Government’s Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) program has once again been highlighted in new research released by an aged care peak body.

Some improvements in home care have been made but research says more needs to be done (Source: Shutterstock)

The research conducted by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) further elaborates on data recently released by Government that shows there are over 50,000 older Australians waiting for a home care package with a further 35,000 people receiving services below their assessed level of need.

LASA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sean Rooney says the research sampled 34 home care package providers drawn from its membership, accounting for five percent of all approved providers nationally, and representing nearly 10 percent of all home care packages available.

“While this critical shortage remains the key issue, our research examining the first six months of the program rollout from February - August this year has also revealed a number of aspects of the rollout that we are seeking to work with government to address,” Mr Rooney says.

What the research conducted by LASA found is that:

While available home care packages increased by 14 percent from 79,000 - 90,000, there was a much smaller increase of 4.7 percent in consumer activation of packages

Premature residential care admissions due to a shortage of high level home care packages occurred at a rate of 2.7 percent of all packages

The extent of accumulated unspent home care package funds is estimated to be between $200-$350 million system-wide

The number of package upgrades for existing home care consumers to a higher level home care package increased significantly across the six months, highlighting the effectiveness of the My Aged Care system in facilitating consumer upgrades consistent with demand

Mr Rooney believes that the implementation of significant system changes that support greater consumer choice are challenging the rollout of the home care packages, whilst the system is also straining to keep up with growing demand.

He suggests that in the short term, more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most.

“This should include re-allocating inactive packages and utilising the unspent funds in existing packages,” he says.

“In addition, 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.”

Fellow aged care peak body COTA has also spoken up about the need for more to be done in the home care sector with CEO Ian Yates saying addressing the lack of packages and the issues with rollout is “long overdue”.

“We have [been speaking to consumers] for about 20 years and in depth over the last 6-8 years,” Mr Yates says.

“As we have said for years, this is what people want and there are not enough HCPs provided - we need at least 50 percent more, probably as much as double.”

Mr Yates adds that the support that many older Australians are receiving in the interim is “inadequate” and that there are high risks associated with the lack of support available.

“Many people are getting inadequate support through CHSP, families, privately purchased support, health systems and often a mix of those - rarely enough and all a bit of a band aid,” he says.

“[This leads to] too much pressure on families, health system pressure, people not getting care and people dying.”

LASA has said it recognises that the Federal Government’s reform agenda in aged care is necessary and ambitious, as it aims to giving older Australians greater choice over the services and support they receive in their homes.

“The ICHC implementation is an evolving process with ongoing systems and process improvements in place to support the rollout of the home care reform program,” Mr Rooney says.

“LASA and our members stand ready to work with the Government and others to resolve the identified issues in the service of older Australians.”

The Government is expected to release its Home Care Package Program Data Report for 1 July - 30 September by the end of this month.


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