AS THE waiting lists for home care packages continue to balloon, the federal government has announced an additional $100 million over two years to help older people remain in their own homes.
The funding will go to targeted existing providers of the Commonwealth Home Support Program which offers entry level services including domestic help, meals, transport, home maintenance and modifications, outside of the Home Care Packages Program. The first payments to providers will be made in January.
Around 800,000 Australians currently received Commonwealth Home Support which is often used to support people until they can access access a Home Care Package.
The funding announcement comes on the back of damning Home Care Packages Program figures which show the number of people waiting for an appropriate-level package grew to 121,400 in the March – June quarter an increase of 12,944 from the previous quarter and more than 16,000 from the December 2017 quarter.
Those older people at greatest need remain the worst off, according to the latest data, The waiting time for the higher level care three and four packages remains more than a year forcing frail and sick seniors, some with dementia, to take a lower level package, manage without help or move into a nursing home.
More than 95,000 people with high needs are waiting for a level three or four package with almost 17,000 of these not receiving any support at all.
However, the number of people receiving a home care package has increased by 7000 from the December quarter to 84,971.
Aged care providers have cautiously welcomed the Commonwealth Home Support Program funding but warned more needed to be done for those older Australians waiting long periods for home care services.
“There remains a large group of older Australians whose needs are quite simply not being met – and who are at a time of life when they simply cannot afford to wait. The government must act now to address that,” said Kasy Chambers, executive director of Anglicare Australia.
“Access to the right home care when it is needed supports the choice of older people to remain at home and will limit moves to residential aged care or admissions to hospitals, ultimately saving costs for individuals and across the health and aged care systems,” said Paul Sadler, spokesperson for Presbyterian Care Australia.
Peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said the Commonwealth Home Support Program funding was welcome but was distinct from the home care package program and would not provide any new personally tailored home care packages to the 121,000 older Australians now on the waiting list, including many with high care needs.
“It is clear that the home care package program is facing compounding challenges and that further financial and operational investment is needed to successfully implement these reforms,” said chief executive Sean Rooney.
“The latest data shows that almost 57,000 people in the national queue have no home care package support, even at a level below what they need.
“While some of these people are instead receiving support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program, the level of support offered is often less than what they have been assessed as needing.
“The government strategy appears to be to provide a basic level of care for as many people as possible either through the Commonwealth Home Support Program or Home Care Packages Programs.
“This approach overlooks the high needs of many on the waiting list, leading to higher rates of hospitalisation and early entry to residential aged care,” he said.
Seniors advocacy peak National Seniors said the government needed to provide clarity about how it planned to address the home care shortfall.
“National Seniors is being contacted with stories of old people dying before they receive the high-level home care that they’ve been approved for,” said chief advocate Ian Henschke.
“Clearly, insufficient funding is being allocated to meet the demand that is the result of an ageing population.”
Home care at a glance – June quarter
- No. of people in the queue for an appropriate HCP – 121,418
- No. of people in or assigned a lower level package – 64,688
- No of people in the queue with no HCP – 57,227
- No of people in an HCP – 84,971
- New people in a HCP in the June quarter – 12,427
- As of June 2018 there were 869 approved home care providers up 1.9 per cent on the March quarter
- Average exit amount $244, down $6 on the previous quarter
- 40.8 per cent of providers indicate they will not charge an exit amount up from 40.4 from the previous quarter
Annual amounts paid by the government for HCP
- Level 1 – $8271
- Level 2 – $15,045
- Level 3 – $33,076
- Level 4 – $50,286