Almost 1,300 older Australians have joined the national home care queue, with more than 129,000 people currently waiting for their allocated home care package, according to the first set of figures released since the re-election of the Coalition government.
The number of people waiting at the end of March stood at 129, 038 compared to 127,748 six months ago, according to the Home Care Packages Program Data Report released this month.
The latest figures show that at the end of the latest quarter 75,739 people were still waiting for an appropriate level of home care with the majority having to get by with only low level Commonwealth home support.
A total of 53,299 had been offered a lower level home care package that didn’t fully meet their needs as a stop gap measure.
The average wait times for all but the lowest level of home care is more than 12 months, the report shows.
There were 26,486 approvals for home care in the March quarter but only 31,200 were released.
As of last December there were 93,331 people in a home care package, 2700 more than in the previous quarter.
The number of approved home care providers has also continued to increase with 15 providers joining the market since December, taking the number of operators to 917. There were 693 approved providers in March 2017.
The opposition said the “distressing” figures underscored the failure of the government to respond to the ongoing crisis.
“These figures confirm the Liberals’ policy chaos has failed older Australians,” opposition spokeswoman Julie Collins said in a statement.
Peak industry body ACSA said it encouraging to see more people accessing home care, but said the size of the waiting list was unacceptable.
CEO Pat Sparrow said the data showed there was no time to wait for the conclusion of the Royal Commission into aged care before acting.
“This new home care package summary has reminded us that there is an urgent need to act now on the provision of home care packages,” she said.
LASA called for moves to fast track the integration of the Home Care Package Program with the Commonwealth Home Support Program and to increase higher level home care packages.
“LASA has received anecdotal advice from home care providers showing that CHSP services funded to provide entry level care are now at capacity,” CEO Sean Rooney said.
LASA was also renewing its call for “private funding levers,” Mr Rooney added.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck said the government was committed to helping senior Australians access the care they wanted and needed, and had increased the number home care packages in response to this.
“In the year to March 2018, we have increased the number of home care packages by 20 per cent, meaning that over 93,000 Australians have a package,” Mr Colbeck told Community Care Review.
There were also more than 53,000 people who hdbeen offered an interim home care package, he noted.
“Our Government is delivering $2.2 billion in additional investment since last year’s Budget to help meet continuing strong demand and has announced additional 20,000 packages,” Mr Colbeck said.
“Indications are that this increase in home care packages has already made a significant difference in senior Australians’ ability to access in-home care.”
Funding increases disappoint
The release of the figure come as the federal government on Tuesday announced a 1.4 per cent indexation increase for home and residential care funding effective from July 1.
The increase has been met with disappointment from both peaks.
Ms Sparrow says the increase is “woefully inadequate”, especially against a 3 per cent wage increase, and services for older Australians will suffer as a result.
Mr Rooney also said that indexation of funding for aged care had not kept pace with the growing needs of older Australians and the costs of their care.
“In home care, a higher hourly wage means that fewer hours of care can be purchased by older Australians if there is not a commensurate increase in the value of packages,” Mr Rooney.
“The leading industry survey also shows that earnings for home care providers have almost halved in the last two years, putting services under increasing pressure just to stay afloat.”
From July the rate of basic daily fee to be charged for home care package will depend on the package level and the subsidy for level 1, level 2, and level 3 home care packages has been further increased from 1 July 2019 to compensate for the decrease in the rate of basic daily fee payable for those home care packages.
More information on the updated fees and charges can be found here.
Australians on the home care priority queue
June 2017 – 88,000
December 2017 – 104,602
June 2018 – 121,418
September 2018 – 126,732
December 2018 – 127,748
March 2019 – 129,038