Just one in four providers say they have received new clients in the first two months of the government’s revamped home care system, while half of existing providers report a drop in their packages, survey shows.
The findings add to mounting concerns that seniors are struggling to activate their packages.
The survey conducted by provider peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) found many providers reported experiencing a low number of referrals from the new national queue. They said the number of clients taking up a package was not keeping pace with natural client turnover.
The government has assigned 30,000 home care packages to consumers through My Aged Care since 27 February. But official data has not yet been released on the number of clients that have taken up their assigned package.
Across the eight-week survey period, half of existing providers experienced a decline in their total number of packages, while one quarter had an increase and the remainder experienced no change.
The snapshot survey of 73 home care providers, which represents more than 10 per cent of the sector, captured the experiences of providers during the initial two months of the reform rollout.
Based on the findings, LASA is calling for the government to implement a strategy to provide liaison support to consumers who may be struggling to activate their assigned package.
“The strategy should serve to respond to consumer readiness and capability issues impacting upon package activations,” said the peak body.
Survey respondents said many consumers did not understand the new system and found the terms “approved” and “assigned” a package confusing.
In the absence of independent formal supports, providers said they were filling this gap in an unfunded capacity to help older people navigate the system.
LASA argues the government’s policy assumes consumers will be proactive in researching providers and have sufficient information to take up a package.
The national peak warned an ongoing decline in the number of active packages across the sector would have significant implications for the viability of services and stability of the workforce.
LASA also pressed the need for the more timely release of data from the department.
The department’s own research detailed at a Senate estimates hearing last week also highlighted consumer confusion over government correspondence as an issue, which it said it was seeking to address (read that story here). The department also revealed that 48 per cent of consumers with assigned packages were requesting more time to activate their package.
LASA’s survey of providers found:
- 58 per cent had clients exit their program, such as move into residential care or switch to another provider.
- 43 per cent experienced clients being upgraded to a higher level package
- 33 per cent had clients switch to them from another provider
- 25 per cent accepted a new client from the national queue.
Providers also reported ongoing difficulties using the My Aged Care provider portal and in interacting with the contact centre. Delays in accessing a home care assessment were also reported by some respondents.
The survey found new provider entrants to the home care market were also attracting a small proportion of consumer transfers and new clients in a sign of increased competition in the sector.
RELATED COVERAGE: Seniors need help accessing home care: peaks