Older people waiting on the national queue for home care will receive a letter three months before they are to be assigned a package to encourage them to plan for services, the department has said.
As Community Care Review has reported, sector peak bodies have been calling on the government to provide extra support to consumers struggling to activate their package under the new system.
Since February 2017 packages have been allocated directly to seniors rather than providers. Once assigned a package, older people have 56 days with the option of a 28-day extension to select their provider before their package is withdrawn.
From this week, the department will notify older people on the queue when they are likely to be assigned a package within 90 days.
The measure aims to reduce the time taken for older people to activate their package and increase overall take up of available care, the department said.
The letter to be sent to consumers will encourage older people to:
- contact the Department of Human Services to complete an income assessment form to determine care fees that will apply
- start researching home care providers and compare services and costs
- use the My Aged Care service finder.
The Department of Health told a sector webinar this month 54 per cent of consumers it had surveyed had not yet started researching providers 35 days after being assigned a package.
Opting out of queue
The letters will also be used to encourage consumers on the queue to opt out if they are not actively seeking services.
The department said its research showed 31 per cent of older people who had been assigned a package had decided not to take it up, but hadn’t yet opted out of the queue.
A further 30 per cent were still deciding whether to take up a package 35 days after being assigned one.
An older person can opt out if they are not ready to take up a package but still retain their place in the queue, should they choose to rejoin later.
The department encouraged providers to opt a consumer out of the home care queue if their needs are being met by an interim package. This will avoid an automatic upgrade to a higher-level package and a buildup of unspent funds, the department’s Paul Linden said in the broadcast.
The department said it would be focusing on ensuring the queue is made up of those with a “genuine and immediate intention” to access services.
ACAT assessors also have a role to play in identifying if a client is immediately seeking services.
Priority levels for home care
The department said the proportion of consumers being assessed as high priority and requiring urgent care (29 per cent) was also higher than expected and would need to be addressed.
Mr Linden said the department had been working with ACAT assessors to ensure that high priority approvals reflected only urgent cases and were based on a person’s current care needs.
High priority approvals impact where packages are assigned nationally.
The letters will be written in English and older people requiring the information in another language will be referred to the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS).
Elsewhere, the department acknowledged the high demand for home care packages and said a range of options were being explored to address it.