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Election silence on home care wait list ‘inexplicable’


As Australia heads to the polls on the weekend the home care waiting list, currently pushing 130,000, is the election campaign elephant in the room.

The coalition has been silent on any policies relating to this political headache, and it wasn’t until a week before the federal election that Labor offered a vague pledge to “investigate interventions to ensure older Australians most at need are prioritised for home care” and “look at how best to improve access to home care packages”.

Ian Yates (AAP/James Elsby)

The lack of decisive action by both major parties to tackle to queue has been “by far the biggest disappointment” of the election, according to Australia’s consumer group  Council on the Ageing (COTA).

COTA CEO Ian Yates said the lack of any reference to aged care was “inexplicable”.

“It’s kind of beyond belief that neither of them have been prepared to make meaningful announcements about how their going to tackle the problem,” he told Community Care Review.

“We have spoken at length to both sides. The formal response is we don’t have any announcements about extra packages or reshaping the system.”

Home care ‘not a vote changer’

Mr Yates said the lack of announcements by the government – probably because the issue wasn’t viewed as a vote-changer – had possibly “let the opposition off the hook”.

A survey of 2,900 members of COTA’s Election Panel identified aged care as the highest concern of older Australians,  almost 8 million of whom are enrolled to vote on Saturday.

“Access to home-care services and information on aged care are without a doubt among the most pressing issues facing older Australians, particularly in the area of home care, with 69 per cent of respondents expressing difficulty in accessing home care,” he said.

Industry group ACSA said despite establishing a Royal Commission the Coalition, as well as Labor had “ignored” the big aged care issue of home care.

“We have 128,000 people waiting for support at home,” CEO Pat Sparrow said. “There are people waiting for care that they deserve and they don’t want to hear excuses about waiting to see what the Royal Commission says.”

Cautious welcome

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said LASA has also been calling for the priority issue of home care waiting lists to be urgently addressed and earlier called the silence on the issue “alarming”.

But he has since given a cautious welcome to Labor’s subsequent pledge to fix what he said was the unacceptable impact on the nearly 130,000 older Australians waiting for a home care package.

“Australia needs an aged care system that ensures older Australians can access the care they need, when and where they need it, and that this care is adequately funded to reflect the actual costs of delivering high quality care and services,” he said on Sunday. “The ALP statement signals a commitment to move forward in this direction.”

Mr Rooney called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to match Labor in announcing the Coalition’s plan for the sector, saying there was still time left in the campaign.

Now, with three days to go, that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

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2 Responses to Election silence on home care wait list ‘inexplicable’

  1. Will Sullivan May 15, 2019 at 2:54 pm #

    Surely everyone assessed at ACAT Level 4 has a similar priority. I’d hate to think that someone like my brother who has been patiently waiting in the queue since October 2016 (nearly 1000 days) is now going to lose his place (again!!) because a new method of prioritizing amongst high needs clients is to be introduced by the politicians. The Royal Commission has heard evidence from high needs people who have waited 1-2 years for their approved package. Well let me speculate that the maximum actual wait times of the patient minority of level 3/4 clients (those who don’t ring up MAC everyday to bully them) is likely to be much much longer – more like 3-4 years. But we’ll never know because the commissioners and counsel have failed abjectly to demand that readily accessible statistic from the department – namely what are the top ten wait times of clients by Level as at the first day of each month.

  2. Ted Wards May 16, 2019 at 3:30 pm #

    What I doint understand is why less than 5% end up in REsidential care but the majority of money goes towards residential care. 95% of the funding should go to home care packages, but because residential care is now owned by big private for profit, and the not for profit ones are being swallowed up, residential care gets the biggest chunk of the pie. Neither party deserve our vote on Saturday, they are so out of touch with the ordinary man, both are pushing for the big end of town. I am ashamed that we are treating our nation builders this way. Without them we would have nothing, this is how we thank them? Shame on every politician that does nothing, you do not deserve a seat in parliament house…shame shame shame. Lets let them know they represent every Australian and we are fed up with them!

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