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Researchers flag concerns with department’s survey


Leading aged and community care researchers have highlighted serious shortcomings in department-commissioned research into the government’s home care changes.

The Department of Health last week released the findings of an evaluation conducted by market research agency AMR of consumer and provider satisfaction with the Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms. In its release the department highlighted only positive findings, such as reporting “The wait time experienced by participants before they were assigned a package was usually seen as satisfactory (74%).”

But university researchers Community Care Review has spoken to have raised concerns about the small size and representativeness of the consumer survey sample.

Lee-Fay Low, an associate professor in ageing and health from the University of Sydney, said the sample of 215 seniors represented fewer than 1 per cent of consumers using or waiting for a home care package.

Due to the use of a telephone survey, the sample was also biased towards “higher functioning, higher educated, English-speaking consumers,” said Dr Low.

Only 5 per cent of the seniors surveyed identified as culturally and linguistically diverse. Western Australia and the Northern Territory also had limited to no representation in the sample.

Older people who might find the system more difficult to use would also be less likely to answer the survey, Dr Low said.

“Given the biased nature of the sample, and the small sample size, it’s difficult to be confident that the results reflect the experience of most older people waiting for or receiving home care packages,” Dr Low told Community Care Review.

Similarly, Dr Lyn Phillipson from the University of Wollongong said the use of repeated telephone surveys made it difficult for people with cognitive impairment or communication difficulties to participate.

Measuring consumer outcomes, not just satisfaction, was also needed in any analysis of the home care reforms, said Dr Phillipson, a NHMRC-ARC Dementia Fellow at the Australian Health Services Institute.

“We need research that can capture the voice of our most vulnerable older people to ensure their needs can be considered in the government’s assessment of the impact of these current aged care reforms.”

Older people also often tend to report feeling very grateful for services, which may also be translating into high satisfaction with services, Dr Phillipson said.

Associate Professor Briony Dow, director of the National Ageing Research Institute, said the research primarily captured the views of clients in receipt of services rather than the large number of people currently waiting in the queue.

As Community Care Review has been reporting, there are about 100,000 seniors waiting for home care at their assessed level of need.

The generalisability of the research’s findings is also limited by the small sample, the lack of representation of some home care user groups and the clients’ poor understanding of aged care programs and services, Dr Dow said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the research firm AMR had advised that “the sample was large enough to enable meaningful quantitative analysis.”

Further work was currently being conducted with consumer groups where sample sizes were not large enough for analysis, such as those who have been assigned a package under the new system and with CALD and indigenous consumers, the spokesperson said.

The research findings have also highlighted the opportunity to improve the information consumers are given to help them set up services, the department said. “Work on this is currently underway.”

Elsewhere, Dr Rajna Ogrin, a senior research fellow with the Bolton Clarke Research Institute, told CCR that the increase in casual employment reported in the provider survey was concerning and the ramifications needed to be further explored.

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4 Responses to Researchers flag concerns with department’s survey

  1. Val Fell February 15, 2018 at 10:50 pm #

    There are many surveys being conducted that are not reaching the people receiving services.

    telephone surveys can be difficult for care-recipients and carers-in the latter case the carer may not be able to answer questions if the recipient is standing close by.

    Internet surveys are only available generally to people on the internet and there are many people over the age of 65 years who will not use the device so are excluded from the sample.

    Maybe it is time to consider using the “old-fashioned” methodology and use face-to-face interviews.-My Aged Care must have a register of people receiving and or waiting for packages from which a random sample could be drawn.–that would still not be entirely representative of the aged care population as it would exclude those not yet assessed.

  2. Elizabeth Drozd - AMCS February 16, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    Thank you Linda Belardi and AAA for providing an alternative view. Thank you to all the academic researchers, emphasizing the importance of representative samples when conducting research

  3. David Napier February 17, 2018 at 4:58 pm #

    I was reassessed the other day for an ASSESSED level 4 package, it took intervention by the Minister to make this happen, and I think he is useless, they obviously did not ask me, I read the report and it made me so angry, how can you say things are rosey when 110,000 people in desperate need are being left without ASSESSED packages, the whole system is crap, no one knows how it works it is easier to get information on Operation Sovereign Border than to get meaningful information from My Aged Care.
    The system is broken beyond repair, and people in desperate need are being left to fend for themselves, they and there carers, I am 71 years of age a week today, I live with a progressive incurable neurological condition, I have a level 3 package with Bolton Clarke and they have been excellent.
    I now await the delegates decision on my reassessment, have been waiting 28 months and I have taken my concerns right to the top and the ombudsmen, what a waste of time, there is no accountability at all, it is beyond comprehension that this is being allowed to happen to some of society’s most vulnerable people.Thanks for reporting on this and telling the truth.

  4. Dana Sawyer February 26, 2018 at 12:21 pm #

    I have to agree that the system is failing many of our most frail members in our community. I am an independent advocate that helps people navigate this system and almost every day we get calls from individuals and family’s in crisis saying “what do we do next?” I just wish the government would start to promote services like our’s that actually support individuals and families to gain a real understanding of the system and then present real choice around both private and government funded services. Instead of what happens now when people are just left on never-ending waiting lists.

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