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Barriers to choice in aged care should be scrutinised: advocate


Brenton Pope addressing the ADA Australia national conference last week.

Excessive exit fees and minimum notice periods could turn the hype of increased choice and control in home care into a fallacy, an advocacy group has warned.

Brenton Pope from Aged Rights Advocacy Service told the ADA Australia conference last week the potential for fees and contract terms to act as barriers to consumers voting with their feet had already been identified as an issue to monitor.

Many providers were still grappling with the transition to operating in a market-based aged care system where organisations compete for customers by selling the value of their service, Mr Pope said.

When compared to other service industries, the home care sector had a way to go before it was fully operating on a market-based model that facilitated genuine choice and free movement, he argued.

“Fundamental to the consumer having choice and control is the ability to come and go as you please,” Mr Pope told Community Care Review.

“My local butcher doesn’t tell me that if I want to go somewhere else for my meat it will cost me $500, and my local baker doesn’t tell me that if I want my bread somewhere else I need to give him 30 days’ notice.”

In many ways consumer choice was still constrained in home care – for instance, in a rural and remote context where market competition did not exist, said Mr Pope.

Importance of consumer advocates

Another key principle to a market model is the ability for consumers to make direct comparisons between services and independent advocacy would be increasingly important in a consumer-directed environment.

“It is essential to have a strong and independent advocacy service to ensure the consumers can have someone to support and provide them with some degree of objectivity around where they stand,” he said.

Mr Pope also challenged the assumption that greater choice was always a good thing.

“More choice can make it even more difficult for a person to reach a conclusion about what is best for them,” he said.

Closely monitor rollout of changes

The government should closely scrutinise the rollout of choice and control measures in home care and step in if systemic issues were identified, he said.

“The shift to increasing consumer control is a continual work in progress.

“If you get lulled into a false sense of security about this being revolutionary or such innovation, you are less inclined to apply a critical eye. It’s essential that everything is scrutinised.”

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5 Responses to Barriers to choice in aged care should be scrutinised: advocate

  1. Sandra March 31, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    Your local butcher or baker hasn’t engaged a qualified support worker and/or care manager to deliver your services that they need to continue to pay once you buy your meat elsewhere either.

    As these costs need to be built into the model somewhere – visibly articulating them is fairer than hiding them in general service delivery costs that everyone then has to pay.

    I believe it actually contributes to choice and control. Is my unhappiness at a level that exceeds $500 of value to me or not? My decision. And – if there is no surplus money in the package – then there is no exit fee!

  2. Ted Wards March 31, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

    I’m not surprised that these issues are occurring. Existing providers have been given the opportunity since 2014 to investigate the new system and transition to the new system. We were even given funding to assist us to ensure our systems would be operational. I don’t see how organisations can say its a work in progress, the progress should of started in 2014. I think the barrier is their reluctance to embrace the new. No matter, there are lots of new organisations coming on the market who have embraced it and improved it. I suggest to all clients looking for new providers to give the old providers stuck in the past a miss and try the new private providers who are switched on and are offering innovative services without the outrageous fees.

  3. Graeme Bull April 2, 2017 at 4:48 pm #

    Regretfully Ted . . . “No matter, there are lots of new organisations coming on market who have embraced and improved it.’ . . . does not necessarily reflect rural/remote locations. Having worked in age care mentoring/advising at CEO/ Board level, I (and my GP), share similar concern when describing rural/remote age care service as appalling! Have worked at a CEO level in Community Services most of my working life, and now as a client holding a Home Care Package, can verify that shiny pamphlets overflowing with reassuring words does not cut it! Rural/remote service providers spend little time, concern about competition. There seldom is any.

  4. Dave April 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm #

    Government dangles the carrot of consumer choice to obfuscate its continued divestment in aged care.

    Providers see dollars signs and fumble their way into new income streams.

    True choice is a luxury only afforded to consumers who are independent, informed and capable…attributes that aged consumers rarely posses.

    Having a choice doesn’t always make things better…or easier. Joe Jackson sang this 26 years ago..

    “A hundred mineral waters
    Fun to guess which ones are safe to drink
    Two hundreds brands of cookies
    87 kinds of chocolate chip
    They say that choice is freedom
    I’m so free it drives me to the brink”

  5. Sharon Scarlett April 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    Ted Wards, if only I could like / love your comments as I could do on Facebook.
    ps. Some of us ‘old’ providers are warmly embracing the exciting changes and charge zero exit fees 🙂

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