Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has made his strongest statements in support of a consolidated home support and home care package program as the “next logical step” in community care reform.
Speaking at the Transitioning to Commonwealth Home Support Program conference in Sydney on Tuesday, Senator Fifield reiterated his vision for a single consumer-directed community care system.
“The next logical step is to bring the Commonwealth Home Support Program together with home care packages. It is logical…and the next step in this journey,” he said.
Significantly, Senator Fifield also acknowledged for the first time that some level of block funding would continue for some services, which will address a key concern of providers.
“I’m aware that to keep some types of services available in the system we may need to continue a block funding model. This will be considered as we evolve our thinking,” he said. “In addition there are some areas – particularly in rural and remote areas – where a market can’t operate and other arrangements need to be put in place.”
The creation of a single home care system integrating home support and packaged care is supported by the National Aged Care Alliance, which recommends adopting a combination of individualised and block funding.
Senator Fifield also said that the government was actively moving towards individual fund holding for aged care consumers. He restated his position that, like the NDIS, aged care funding should go to the consumer to direct, rather than the provider.
A focus on restorative care and consumer directed care philosophies underpinning the new CHSP would keep home support closely aligned to approaches in packaged home care, he told the event.
‘A modern market-based quality system’
On the topic of quality, Senator Fifield also flagged a push towards a more market-based quality system.
“Ultimately the customer’s definition of what is quality is the only one that really matters. And consumer choice is the ultimate aged care ‘safeguard’.”
He said a more sophisticated definition of quality in aged care should be meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
Senator Fifield said in the future Trip Advisor style capacities on My Aged Care would develop ratings for the quality of providers, according to what matters to consumers not governments.
“We should embrace this development while ensuring that safety is a given,” he said.
In relation to the next steps for the CHSP, which will commence from 1 July, Senator Fifield said he would be shortly announcing the successful tenderers for the Regional Assessment Services, which will be conducting independent assessments, and the reclassification of services previously under Service Group 2 was almost finalised.