Home care funding approach fails to meet demand

National Seniors Australia said today the federal government’s latest home care data report showed the current ‘drip feed’ funding model was failing to reduce the overall waiting list.

Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said National Seniors acknowledged the government’s additional funding commitments over recent months, but the overall home care waiting list had grown from almost 127,000 to almost 128,000 in the December quarter.

This was 24,000 higher than the total 104,000 at the end of 2017.

While the number of people with level 3 and 4 (high needs) packages grew by almost 4,500 over the December 2018 quarter, 88,772 people with high care needs were still waiting.

Mr Henschke said National Seniors had called on the government to provide sufficient funding to eliminate the level 3 and 4 package waiting list in the April budget, and argued that a new approach to overall funding was required.

“National Seniors believes what we need as a matter of urgency is a complete rethink of how home care is funded,” Mr Henschke said.

“The government has no plan for eliminating the overall waiting list, let alone providing much needed help to those people who need it most – those waiting on level 3 and 4 packages.

“The government can’t just keep doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.

“We know what the problem is and it’s not new – we have an ageing population and most people want to stay in their own homes rather than go into nursing homes. That’s a good thing, because we know home care is much more cost effective than residential aged care.

“But now the government – in tandem with other key stakeholders – has to come up with the solution and we can’t wait for the Royal Commission into Aged Care to finish next year to start thinking about what it is.”

Mr Henschke welcomed the government’s commitment to provide an extra 20,000 packages over 2019-20 – 10,000 of them high level and 10,000 across all levels. But National Seniors continued to hear from members and others whose loved ones were dying waiting for the home care they desperately needed.

Others were ending up in residential care prematurely for the same reason.

According to the government’s figures, 96,000 people on the waiting list who are waiting for a home care package at their approved level also have approval for a permanent place in an aged care facility.

“It’s a bit frightening to think this number of people are considered in need of nursing home care, but can’t even get the home care package they’ve been approved for,” Mr Henschke said. “We’re wondering just how long the government can let this situation continue.”

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