THE Government’s much-lauded home care program is failing Australia’s seniors with damning new figures showing nearly 127,000 are waiting for a care package or are being forced into a lower level of care.
Those at greatest need remain the worst off. Many of these are frail and/or suffering from dementia and have been approved for the maximum level-four care package; but the wait time for this level is now more than a year, forcing them to accept a much lower level of support, move into a nursing home or end up in hospital.
June to September 2018 data shows the national home care package queue grew by more than 5,000 in three months and more than 20,000 in just nine months - despite the Government releasing more packages including 30,150 during the quarter – an average of 2320 a week.
The estimated time for level two, three and four applicants to receive their approved package is more than 12 months.
Some people on the national queue have been offered stop-gap help through the entry-level Commonwealth Home Support Program with the Government recently announcing it will pour a further $100 million into the program over two years beginning in January.
Aged care providers and seniors groups have expressed serious concerns over the latest figures.
Calling on the Government to develop a sustainable funding strategy, Leading Age Services Australia chief Sean Rooney said people were being forced into aged care and hospitals because they could not access the services they had been assessed as needing.
“This ultimately costs the Government more than giving them a package at an appropriate level, to say nothing of the suffering it causes to older Australians and their carers,” he said.
Pat Sparrow chief executive for Aged Care Services Australia described the blow-out in figures as an unacceptable trend.
“It’s unacceptable for so many individuals and families to be without the appropriate level of care – either through beings assigned a package that doesn’t meet their required needs or without a package at all.
Every quarter it becomes clearer that the provision of home care packages falls well short of being able to keep up with demand. The Government needs to recognise that, without further investment, the problem will only get worse.”
If you need anything over and above help with showering, you’re more likely going to end up in a nursing home
Paul Versteege, policy coordinator at Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said that the support people received while in the national prioritisation system was inadequate.
“Two thirds of people (57,646) who have a package have a lower package than they need and a further 69,000 have no package at all. Their ‘supports’ are CHSP or a nursing home for which 89,773 people (71 per cent) of the overall waiting list have a current approval.
“This means if you need anything over and above help with showering, you’re more likely going to end up in a nursing home,” he said.
“Just to keep pace with new demand the average weekly release in September should have been 409 more packages.
“The government’s commitment doesn’t present a plan to stop the horrendous blow-out in the waiting list.”
The data also shows the number of care providers increased from 869 on June 30 to 896 on September 30.
The average maximum exit amount was $232 at September 30 a decrease of $12 since June, with 42.1 per cent of providers saying they will not deduct an exit fee.