The Federal Government has shelved plans to introduce a mandatory national fees policy for the new Commonwealth Home Support Program from 1 July and instead will introduce a principles-based fees framework.
Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield said the government had decided not to proceed with a mandatory policy in response to feedback from the sector, and in particular the views of volunteers and providers of meals on wheels, community transport and social support services.
The new fees framework will outline principles providers can adopt in setting and implementing their fees and will prevent fees from exceeding the cost of the service and ensure there is a safety net for those who need it, he said.
The Department of Social Services will also work with the sector to develop a national guide for providers and consumers which describes the current varying fee arrangements in order to make them more transparent.
The peak body for mission-based aged care providers, Aged and Community Services Australia, welcomed the change in approach and said a proposed fees framework would work better than a mandatory policy.
“Providers now have three years to bed down the CHSP program without having to implement a fees policy that does not recognise demographics and other variables in each community,” said ACSA CEO Adjunct Professor John Kelly.
“It will give time for providers to talk with consumers about the need to contribute to the cost of their care and gives time for the community and the sector to become aware that CHSP is designed to provide small amounts of entry level service for older people.”
The principles-based fees policy will be settled and released in July in consultation with the National Aged Care Alliance and other peak bodies.
The government said the new fees framework would enable providers to move their fee charging practices towards national consistency over time.
CHSP providers to be given three-year contracts
Senator Fifield also announced on Monday that CHSP funding agreements will be extended to 30 June 2018, giving providers an additional year of funding certainty. This was in recognition of the budget measure to integrate the Commonwealth Home Support Program and home care packages from July 2018.
“This funding will ensure three years of certainty worth more than $1.6 billion annually for CHSP providers,” he said.
In a budget estimates hearing on 4 June, Senator Fifield foreshadowed changes to the CHSP fees policy and acknowledged concerns from organisations around charging fees for volunteer-run services.
Senator Fifield said the government’s decision to move to a consolidated community care program from July 2018 had also influenced his approach to the new CHSP, which is set to begin 1 July.
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