Industry peak bodies and service providers are calling for a government review of unspent funds in home care as new data shows surpluses continue to climb.
Aged and Community Services Australia and five not-for-profit provider groups are the latest to call for action on the issue among a series of recommendations to boost access to home care.
On Monday, ACSA, Anglicare Australia, National Presbyterian Aged Care Network, Baptist Care Australia, UnitingCare Australia and Lutheran Aged Care Albury jointly recommended steps be taken to maximise the use of available subsidies.
New benchmarking data from accounting firm StewartBrown published this month showed average unspent funds per client increased by 27 per cent to $5,400 in the six months to December.
A consumer attitude of saving for a ‘rainy day’, incorrect or outdated assessments and an increase in automatic upgrades from My Aged Care have all been cited as potential reasons for an accumulation of funds.
Based on a survey last year of 34 home care providers, industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia estimated unspent funds could be in excess of $200 million.
LASA’s analysis found almost 40 per cent of packages had unspent amounts over $5,000 and some providers reported consumers with surpluses over $20,000.
The national peak body has called for large amounts of unspent funds to be clawed back and redirected into the system.
In a recent paper addressing this issue, LASA said automatic upgrades via My Aged Care have contributed to an increase in unused funding since the introduction of the Increasing Choice in Home Care changes last year.
“It is suspected that many consumer upgrades are poorly matched to a consumer’s current care needs,” the report said.
Consumers may also be unready or reluctant to accept additional services, it said.
ACSA has argued that clients with large amounts of unspent funds that are not being saved for an agreed purpose should not be automatically upgraded to a higher-level package.
The extent of unused subsidises in the system has come into sharp focus considering the size of the national queue for home care and the urgent need for additional packages.
Government data shows nearly 105,000 people are waiting to receive a home care package at their assessed level of need.
The system also currently does not facilitate the downgrading of a client to a lower-level package, especially in the context of an reablement approach to care.
The sector is also calling for additional investment in home care to be delivered in the May budget.