Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has criticised some home care providers for failing to make the transition to consumer directed care early enough, reminding providers they had three years to prepare for the changes and address the loss of the ability to cross subsidise clients.
However, industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia has hit back saying government had failed to adequately support providers through the transition process.
Senator Fifield said there was an expectation that providers would transition people over time as consumers left packages, however this has not happened in all cases and some consumers were only now coming to grips with how their budget and care might be impacted in the move to individual funding.
“The previous government, when they first started the initial CDC packages, gave providers three years’ notice to regularise arrangements. Given the average length of time a person is on a package is a bit under two years, that meant there was the opportunity for providers…to make that adjustment without affecting individuals,” he said.
“What is becoming increasingly clear is that not all providers have done what they should have done over that period…so that’s disappointing.”
LASA CEO Patrick Reid said it was wrong to suggest providers have not prepared themselves for the changes, when transition assistance from the government had been lacking.
“There hasn’t been enough support for providers to be ready and some of them are struggling with the changes required, yet we don’t see any more assistance coming from government apart from a telephone service and a website,” he said.
Responding to some consumer concerns about a shortfall in care under CDC, Senator Fifield announced any home care client that has been told they will be worse off under consumer directed care could ask the Department of Social Services to review their package.
The Minister said the department would also make sure providers were “doing the right thing” and will scrutinise the administration charges of providers to ensure that clients were receiving the full value of their package.
“I’ve heard of some examples where there are administration charges of up to 40 per cent, which strikes me as peculiar and not acceptable,” said Senator Fifield.
Mr Reid agreed excessive administration charges should be investigated but said no evidence had been put to the peak body to suggest unreasonable administration costs were a serious concern.
He said administration fees included in a client’s statement often included case management and contingency funds, which were now transparent to the consumer.
As part of a client case review, Senator Fifield said the department could also make a decision as to whether a higher level package is allocated to the provider to meet the needs of the client.
In cases where a consumer’s care needs can’t be met using their package budget, the department has advised providers to consider reassessing a client for a higher level package, topping up services with consumer funds or moving a client to residential care.
Individual budgets under consumer directed care has ended a common industry practice whereby providers have cross subsidised high needs clients with funds allocated to another individual.
However providers have argued that cross subsidisation was necessary for clients requiring higher level services but were unable to access a level three or level four package, due to limited vacancies at the high-needs end.