Nearly 90,000 older Australians approved for a home care package are unable to access the care they need, the first-ever data on unmet consumer demand for packages has revealed.
According to a Department of Health report released today, over 53,000 consumers were waiting to be assigned a package at 30 June and a further 35,000 people on the national queue were making do on a lower-level package while waiting for their assessed level of care.
The report showed 67,000 older people nationally were waiting to receive a Level 3 or 4 package.
Due to the high demand for packages, the Federal Government said most consumers could expect a maximum wait time of “more than 12 months”.
For the first time since the introduction of the new national prioritisation system on 27 February, clients are able to access their individual expected wait times in bands of three months by phoning the My Aged Care contact centre or viewing their client record online.
The chief executive of COTA Australia Ian Yates said the shortfall in available packages was “far greater than most expected” and the pressure placed on consumers and families assessed as requiring care was unsustainable.
In response to increasing demand for high-level home care, the Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced on Thursday the government would release an additional 6,000 high-level home care packages this financial year within the existing funding envelope.
This measure is cost-neutral and will be achieved by converting unused low-level packages to higher level ones.
At 30 June 2016, there were 10,600 unoccupied Level 1 and Level 2 packages.
The sector has been calling for the government to change the mix of available home care packages to better meet the demand for high care and this rebalancing of packages was also a recommendation of the Tune Review tabled on Thursday.
Mr Yates welcomed the government’s commitment to changing the current mix of home care packages and urged the government to also implement the Tune Review’s recommendation to temporarily re-allocate unoccupied residential places to home care.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said the level of unmet demand for packages supported the strong case for increasing the government’s overall investment in home care.
“ACSA wants to see a balanced aged care system that supports the care needs of all older Australians allowing those with higher care needs to access services but not at the expense of those requiring lower level care,” she said.
According to the department’s report, the national queue grew by 10 per cent (7,908) over the four-month period between 27 February and 30 June, reflecting growing demand for community aged care.
The number of consumers waiting on the queue without a home care package at any level decreased by 11.5 per cent over this period.
The government’s first report on the new system did not provide information on the number of consumers who have taken up their assigned package.
At 31 March 2017, there were 70,000 consumers receiving a home care package.