The federal government has denied using “smoke and mirrors” to con older Australians about home care by trying to pass off old announcements as new ones in the budget.
During a heated budget estimates hearing earlier this month, Labor Senator Helen Polley asked whether the additional home care places contained in the federal budget were new, or just previously announced packages that were being re-announced.
In his speech on April 2 Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the budget would deliver 10,000 new home care packages, bringing the total number announced over the last 18 months to 40,000.
“Can the department confirm that these are the same home care packages that were announced in February this year on the eve of the royal commission beginning its public hearings?” Senator Polley asked during the April 5 hearing.
Senior health department bureaucrat Dr Lisa Studdert confirmed that was correct.
“So the budget now isn’t really about the forward budget; it’s now being used to re-announce an announcement that was made in February?” Senator Polley continued. “Is that more smoke and mirrors, trying to con older Australians?”
Indigenous Affairs minister Senator Scullion denied this was the case.
“We indicated that these would be budget measures that would be announced in the budget,” he replied. “There’s no smoke and mirrors about that.”
Senator Polley asked him if there was “one new initiative in this year’s budget, 2019-20, that has not already been announced – just one new initiative to older Australians?”
Senator Scullion was unable to answer that question directly but Glenys Beuachmap from the department of health said there were new measures relating to “quality and safety”.
Ms Beauchamp also confirmed there were 74,000 people waiting for an approved home care package who had not yet received any package.
CHSP to continue with reablement focus
Meanwhile, the government confirmed that CHSP funding would continue until 2022 and that the nature of the agreement between CHSP providers and the government would be developed over the next 15 months in consultation with the sector.
“It has been determined that, at this stage, it is appropriate to continue those services while we continue to develop home care programs across the portfolio of aged care,” Dr Studdert said.
Ms Beauchamp said the government was confident of being able to meet the 2022 deadline to transition CHSP into home care as well as meeting the needs and demands of some 850,000 CHSP consumers, and a reablement trial involving CHSP providers was part of the phase-out.
Fiona Buffinton, from the department’s home care division, said the government was working on “streamlined assessment” for CHSP and HCP, and had undertaken a major survey of CHSP providers, who indicted they understood the shift in focus towards reablement.
“I can say that 80 per cent of Commonwealth home support providers feel that … they’re now involved in that reablement focus,” she said.
Read more: Budget disappoints stakeholders