Western Australia’s Home and Community Care (HACC) program will transfer to the Federal Government on 1 July 2018, completing the Commonwealth’s takeover of entry-level aged care services for people over 65.
The WA and Commonwealth governments finalised an agreement on 31 January outlining the transition process, which will end the jointly funded, state-managed program.
WA is the last state to relinquish responsibility for HACC services for older clients.
Announcing the deal with the WA state government earlier this month, federal Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt said the new arrangements would create “a truly national aged care system.”
Mr Wyatt also announced that responsibility for WA specialist disability services for older people will also transition to the Australian Government from 1 July 2019.
Under the agreement, the Commonwealth has guaranteed 12 months of funding to WA HACC providers from 1 July 2018 and there will be no requirement for a competitive tender process during this period.
There are currently around 105 HACC service providers in WA delivering community and home-based services to more than 60,000 clients over 65.
The state’s HACC assessment services will also transition to the My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service from 1 July 2018.
Like the rest of the country, the Western Australian Government will continue to be responsible for HACC services for clients under the age of 65 or under 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
As part of the next stage of community care reform, the Coalition Government has previously announced its plans to integrate the CHSP and home care packages program to create a single care at home program from 1 July 2018.
Mixed feelings among providers
Many HACC providers in WA welcomed the announcement as a significant step towards creating a single, integrated community aged care system. However, others said they were disappointed about a lack of sector consultation with providers.
CEO of Amana Living Stephanie Buckland told Community Care Review she hoped the transition of HACC to the Commonwealth would lead to a better alignment of home support services with home care packages, as well as a streamlining of government reporting.
Ms Buckland also urged the government to maintain the strengths of WA’s consistent approach to client assessment in the national system.
The CEO of Avivo, Rosie Lawn, said her organisation welcomed the transition of HACC services in WA into the national aged care system and hoped it would make it easier for older Australians, their families and carers to navigate and receive support in a timely manner.
“The flexibility, choice and control that the national system offers people is exciting and we look forward to making the transition as smooth as possible,” she told CCR.
Ms Lawn said it was important for the Commonwealth to recognise the unique aspects of communities within WA and to maintain strong relationships with the sector.
Dan Minchin, the group CEO of the three-way merger of Community First, Volunteer Task Force and Care Options, said while the transition would be challenging for providers, the move is a positive one overall for the state.
“This reform aims to increase choice, control and dignity for individuals. For community care providers, this means rising to the challenge of adapting our services and our businesses,” he said.
However, Juniper’s executive manager of community Chris Oldfield told CCR there had not been enough consultation with providers about the transition.
“Whilst Juniper understands the merit of operating under a national, integrated aged care system, HACC providers in WA have not been involved in the consultation processes which have led to the design of the new national home support program,” she said.
Ms Oldfield said providers faced uncertainty about what an integrated community care system would look like.
Background to federal takeover of HACC
In July 2012, the Commonwealth officially took over responsibility for HACC services in all states and territories, except for Victoria and WA, with the creation of the Commonwealth HACC program.
Under the Living Longer Living Better reforms, the Federal Government then established a consolidated Commonwealth Home Support Program on 1 July 2015, which amalgamated four separate home support programs.
Following two years of negotiations, Victoria signed an agreement to hand over responsibility for HACC services to the Commonwealth and joined the CHSP on 1 July 2016.