With just weeks to go before deregulation is introduced into home care, the Department of Health has released the findings of key research into the readiness of providers for the landmark reforms.
The report, which was completed by research agency Taylor Nelson Sofres in September, was based on in-depth interviews with 52 home care providers, representing approximately 10 per cent of the industry.
Its release on 23 January came after Community Care Review put questions to the department in December regarding the release of the report and subsequently lodged a Freedom of Information application requesting the report earlier this month.
The interviews, undertaken between June and August last year, showed enthusiasm for the reforms was highest among larger and for-profit providers, while rural organisations and small not-for-profits were the least prepared for the change.
Government efforts to assist providers with the transition to a competitive marketplace from 27 February should focus on not-for-profit providers, which may lack the resources and business acumen to make the necessary adjustments, the report said.
Resistance to change and limited understanding of the policy also contributed to concern and apprehension among some providers, the research found.
Despite some concerns, overall around 70 per cent of providers expressed high levels of confidence their organisation would be ready to compete in the new marketplace by February.
Support for sector delivered: department
When asked how it had responded to the report’s findings, the department told CCR that it had supported providers and consumers with the transition through webinars, fact sheets, consumer materials and funding of peak body organisations including Aged & Community Services Australia, Leading Age Services Australia, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia.
In recognition of the issues facing rural and remote providers, the department said it had held group forums and “one-on-one education targeted at remote and very remote services” and provided assistance to providers through the Service Development Assistance Panel.
ACSA chief Pat Sparrow said that while helpful education and information resources had been provided, financial support to the industry to assist with the transition had been lacking.
“While we acknowledge the government has provided some financial support to the industry to prepare for reform, when compared to the government’s investment in the NDIS, which saw a similarly major industry restructure, it is minimal,” she told CCR.
Ms Sparrow said further detail about the precise implementation of the reforms was also needed.
LASA chief Sean Rooney said his peak’s members were still seeking further operational detail, particularly in relation to the claiming processes managed by the Department of Human Services.
“It will be important for the Department of Human Services to ensure it has structured processes in place that have been thoroughly tested to prevent a further escalation of the payment system issues that are already occurring.”
Consumer interviews: Few consumers say they are likely to change providers
The report also raised questions about the extent to which consumers would exercise their power to switch providers in a competitive marketplace.
In the study, which was based on 62 interviews with consumers and carers, only one in five consumers said they would be likely to change providers once they had the choice. The perceived stress of changing providers, customer loyalty and a dislike of change were some of the key reasons identified.
The research found that the reform is likely to have the greatest resonance with carers of high needs consumers, while clients with low needs and older clients appeared the least likely to exercise their power to move elsewhere.
“Carers were more likely to be critical of their current service, and more interested in ‘shopping around’ for a better option,” the report said.
Many consumers placed a high value on consistency of care and care relationships, in some cases, over and above service quality, the report said, which is also a finding of international models of CDC.
For some consumers a cheaper priced service would be an incentive to switch providers.
The report said older people may need support to change providers through face-to-face advice and guidance, particularly for those with high level needs and limited informal support networks.