Data released by the Department of Health last week showing that the queue of older Australians seeking home care packages has grown by 14 per cent to over 101,500 in the last quarter underlines the urgent need for a review of government resourcing of its Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) reforms.
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) CEO Sean Rooney said it is clear from the data that the ICHC program is facing compounding challenges and that further financial and operational investment is needed to successfully implement the reforms.
“This obvious shortfall in resourcing is not only impacting the care available to older Australians but providers are also facing increased challenges to deliver appropriate services and manage risks associated with unmet care needs,” Mr Rooney said.
“The quarterly report showed that at 30 September more than 60,000 consumers were waiting to be assigned a package and 41,000 were receiving services below their assessed level of need.
“The report also showed that 79,000 people nationally were on the queue for a high-level package, up from 67,000 at the end of June, despite the average number of daily approvals for a package growing by 24 per cent since March 2017.”
Mr Rooney said the home care reforms, in aiming to support consumer choice, are “absolutely right in principle”, but were being challenged by the implementation of significant system changes, whilst also straining to keep up with growing demand.
“In the short term, we believe more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most, including re-allocating inactive packages and utilising unspent funds in existing packages,” Mr Rooney said.
“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.”
Mr Rooney said LASA welcomes the transparency of information made available through the Department of Health’s quarterly release of the Home Care Package Programme Data Reports.
“This data provides a robust lens through which we can see how the ICHC program is performing and inform improvements to the way we deliver subsidised care to older Australians in their homes.”
Mr Rooney said LASA recognises that the Federal Government’s reform agenda in aged care is necessary and ambitious.
“LASA and our Members stand ready to work with the Government and others to resolve the identified issues in the service of older Australians.”
LASA also welcomed the Department of Health’s recent enhancements to the My Aged Care system to address concerns raised by providers about home care package withdrawals.
Read the Department of Health’s full report here.
Read LASA’s Media Release here.