Industry peak Leading Age Services Australia is proposing the government consider utilising unspent home care funds – estimated to be in excess of $200 million – to help alleviate the urgent need for additional packages.

Government data shows over 53,000 older people are waiting for a home care package and a further 35,000 are receiving services below their assessed level of need.

The peak body said substantial amounts of unspent funds could be redirected back into the system via an annual home care funds acquittal process to provide more timely support to people waiting on the national queue.

A survey of 34 of its members holding 6,800 packages showed 47 per cent of packages had unspent funds at 31 August.

Of these, 16 per cent had unspent funds over $10,000. There were also anecdotal reports of consumers with surpluses over $20,000, the survey report said.

“In the short term, more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most,” said LASA CEO Sean Rooney.

“In addition, looking towards next year’s budget, a significant injection of funding will also be required to address the current waiting list and to make the system sustainable in the longer term,” he said.

The snapshot survey’s findings were released today and captured the experiences of home care providers during the first six months of the Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms between 27 February and 31 August.

Providers reported consumer activation of packages as a continuing concern, however the research found improvement in this area from LASA’s initial survey released in June.

Almost two-thirds of providers reported an increase in the number of packages over the six-month survey period and 20 per cent reported a drop in packages.

High numbers of incorrect package withdrawals and pressure on the Commonwealth Home Support Program funding were also identified as key issues in the report.

LASA said due to the high unmet demand for home care packages, consumers were increasingly accessing home support or private services as a substitute or top-up form of support.

The peak body said access to CHSP top funds should be reserved for consumers with low means.

Home care providers also reported that unmet demand for high-level home care packages had resulted in some consumers entering residential care prematurely. Over the six-month period 217 clients left an interim lower level home care package to move into residential care, the survey found.

Download the report and recommendations here.

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3 Comments

  1. This is a ridiculous state of affairs. If there are unspent monies of up to $10,000 then they are on the WRONG package and should be re-assessed. Many people are assessed and get approvals when they have a health crisis. 6 months later it has all settled and they no longer need a Level 3 or 4 package. Many people are sitting on Level 4 packages “just in case” they need it “in the future” and some organisations and case managers are actively supporting that. Meanwhile a person with genuine high needs is doing without and ends up in care.
    CHSP programs are often providing 4-6 hours of support a week across 4-5 services so Level 2 packages need an overhaul as well.

  2. It is beyond frustrating, but yet another foreseen consequence as result of the change to consumer-held home care packages. Previously, providers could encourage low spending clients to transfer to a lower level package (and take their balance with them) and make the space free for a client desperately requiring and would use up the services of a level 4. However, this is what happens when you have security of tenure among a population who are trying to plan for future need and the message loud and clear is that it is CLIENT CHOICE. Case managers can encourage consumers to spend and think of more creative ways to use the unspent funds, but you cannot get in the way of client choice and consumer direction. Now we will continue to have an exacerbating waste of resources problem in home care which didn’t necessarily exist before. Someone in Canberra just flicks an assigned HCP to the next person waiting, regardless of their particular need and changing circumstance, or health at the time. Doesn’t really seem fair, does it. I know they didn’t like cherry picking, but at least providers could prioritise and match based on their knowledge and expertise with the client. Now a level 4 would be stupid to give it up, when would they be able to receive it again in the future?

  3. Those unspent may contain some consumer contributions previously made as a basic daily fee. In the recent past it was common practice for providers to be charging clients a daily fee up to 17% of their pension. In those (recent) days there was no such things as “unspent funds” as the funds were pooled across regions. There is no way those funds should be handed out to others; that would essentially be theft as those clients contributed some of that money from their own pockets. On the other hand, IF the particular client CONSENTED to let their unspent funds be used by someone else, that may be feasible.

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