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Monday, November 29, 2021

Home care waiting list falls to a year or less but further reform required

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Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) has welcomed Government estimates that maximum home care waits have fallen to a year or less, down from almost three years in 2018-19.

“The reduction in home care wait times to a year or less is a major milestone for aged care and older Australians,” LASA acting chief advocate, Tim Hicks, said.

“At the recent Budget, the Government committed $6.5 billion to create 80,000 new home care packages over the next two years, adding to $5.5 billion in additional funding since 2018.

“Of course, having almost 90,000 older Australians waiting up to a year for essential care is still unacceptable.”

Hicks said LASA remains concerned that the Government has not made a firm commitment to reducing wait times to less than a month, as recommended by the Royal Commission.

“There is a good chance that falling wait times will increase the number of people coming forward to request a package and funding does not appear to have been allocated to account for this.

“We remain frustrated that Government has ignored calls from provider and consumer groups to allow people to access their home equity to stay at home while waiting for a package through a low or zero interest version of the Pension Loans Scheme.

“This is a missed opportunity to give people who cannot wait for a Government funded package an alternative option – it is basically a no brainer.”

LASA said the Federal Government also still needs to get the design of home care right:

  • Billions of dollars languish in unspent funds, while consumers receive less care than they need
  • Bureaucracy creates confusion for consumers and excessive administrative costs for providers
  • Policy settings continue to discourage consumer contributions
  • There is disclosure of price, but not information on quality, creating perverse incentives that risk driving down quality
  • Providers are also concerned about inconsistent regulatory interventions

Hicks said LASA and its members look forward to working with the Government to continue to improve care for people ageing at home.

“We also cannot forget that residential care remains in dire straits – taking into account inadequate indexation, the average facility is likely to remain in deficit over the next year,” he said.

“It is hard to see how anyone can expect significant investments in quality improvement to occur when so many providers are already spending more than they are paid.

Hicks said extra funding to pay for more staff, and new indexation arrangements to cover higher costs including wages should provide some relief from next year, but this is cold comfort for providers, staff and residents who have to accept at least another year of inadequate funding.

The January to March 2021 home care report is here.

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