Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), the voice of aged care, is calling on the Federal Government to get rid of the Home Care Package (HCP) waitlist, with only a small reduction in the latest queue figures across the quarter to 31 December 2020.

The waitlist for people who have been approved for HCPs only reduced by 2,404 across this quarter, despite the total number of people receiving a home care package increasing by 9,520 people since the end of September 2020.

“We welcome the release of additional packages in last year’s Budget and MYEFO, but with these additional packages the clearance of the national queue cannot come quick enough,” said Tim Hicks, LASA’s General Manager Policy and Advocacy.

“The latest numbers show that almost 97,000 remain on the queue to receive their approved packages.

“We acknowledge the announcement of the release of over 83,000 HCPs since 2018, valued at almost $5.5 billion, with over 173,000 older Australians having access to packages now.

“However, the Aged Care Royal Commission has said the queue should be eliminated by December this year, and we call on the Government to work closely with the sector to do what is necessary to achieve that recommendation.

“Wait times continue to be far too long, with the Royal Commission saying Older Australians should need not wait more than one month after being assessed to receive necessary supports to remain at home.

“The latest report shows that the majority of older Australians have to wait over a year to access the supports they are assessed as needing, with the Royal Commission revealing more precise data from previous years that suggests wait times can be as long as three years for older Australians needing the highest levels of care at home.”

New HCPs must be constantly released and at levels consistent with what older Australians are assessed as needing, to reduce the national queue in a realistic way. We certainly don’t need more low level packages that give people less support than what they need.

This creates pressures on carers, families and providers as they continue to contend with unmet care needs.

Additional home care staff are also needed to sustain the provision of high quality care as the number of packages expands.

“Clearing the home care waitlist will increase pressures on the workforce and the management of care by home care providers.” Mr Hicks said.

“That is why Government needs to work with the sector to expand the aged care workforce across regions consistent with waitlist demand, ensuring additional packages are matched to workforce expansion where older Australians are waiting to receive their care and support. There needs to be a clear national schedule to support workforce planning, training and recruitment of additional workers matched to regional demand.

“The $92 million allocated to the Home and Residential Aged Care Workforce Support Program is a welcome start towards addressing this issue, and we look forward to working with Government to progress its implementation as soon as possible.

“Addressing the home care queue must be part of a comprehensive Government response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations to ensure all older Australians have access to the high quality care they need, whether at home or in residential care and in the communities in which they live.

“Growth in the home care and residential care workforce, and other investments in response to the Royal Commission, will play a significant role in building Australia’s economy as we emerge from COVID-19, particularly in regional and rural areas.”

The full quarterly report is located here