Peak industry body Leading Aged Care Services has released its budget submission calling for measures to encourage Australians who are waiting for home care to use their home equity to pay for services.
It also calls for the creation of a low rate Home Care Loans Scheme, a $500 million a-year injection into home care and $60 million a year in home care subsidies for providers.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will hand down the 2019 budget on April 2 ahead of a federal election, as growing numbers of older Australians find themselves without adequate care and the aged care royal commission puts the spotlight on Australia’s aged care services.
Advertising PLS to people waiting for home care
LASA says the revised Pension Loans Scheme (PLS), which enables older people to access their home equity, should be advertised to everyone on the HCP queue.
“A simple first step is to ensure that the options presented from 1 July 2019 by the revised Pension Loans Scheme are communicated to all of those on the home care queue,” the submission says.
“In theory, the maximum amounts under the revised PLS will be enough to fund a significant proportion of the unmet home care needs of those on the queue.
“Directly presenting the option to those on the queue … may help boost take up [of the PLS].”
The terms of the PLS could also be “made more attractive” by reducing the current 5.25 per cent interest rate, which is currently above RBA cash rates.
A Home Care Loans scheme with a concessional interest rate should be an “additional option for older Australians to deal with the unfortunate reality of the queue,” LASA says.
Allowing those most in need to leap-frog queue
In addition, LASA wants to see people of lower means fast-tracked through the queue and the introduction of legislated maximum waiting times.
“Government should consult on the procedure for determining who should be fast-tracked and how the process can be managed so that all older Australians on the queue progress equitably,” it says.
LASA calls for $500 million a year in additional Home Care funding “until wait times fall to an acceptable level” and $60 million a year to maintain the real value of home care packages.
It also says the government could support “more equitable consumer contribution” by increasing the annual fee cap for HCP income tested fees and abolishing lifetime caps, as well as introducing mantadory consumer contributions for CHSP services.
Investing in the workforce
It also says the government must invest in upskilling the aged care workforce, equivalent to funding a staff member in each aged care service to attend a full day training course.
The industry peak calls for an urgent funding boost for aged care its submission, saying the capacity of providers to deliver care is being restrained by the resources available to them.
The submission notes the average margin for home care providers has dropped 45 per cent from a peak of $6.40 per day in December 2016 to $3.49 and funding per person has failed to keep up with increases in the aged care award.
It also says insufficient government funding means that 126,000 people have been forced to wait for home care after being assessed as eligible, often more than 12 months.
“The modest funding increases announced in the 2018-19 Budget and Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) provide some relief, but conditions will continue to deteriorate without a significantly larger intervention,” CEO Sean Rooney said in a statement.
“LASA and the age services industry fully support the royal commission process, but we must press on with addressing a number of urgent issues without prejudice to the commission’s findings, and we must start with this year’s budget.”
LASA’s budget wish list
– $500 million a year for more home care packages
– $60 million for indexation of home care subsidies
– $30 million a year for workforce training and upskilling workforce
– $100 million extra for behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia
– Promote the PLS to those on the HCP waiting list to encourage use of home equity
– Fast track home care for those most in need
– Outline plan for integration of the CHSP and HCP programs
– Introduce maximum home care wait times
– Invest in research to support a shift from ‘aged care’ to ‘ageing well’