The Commonwealth should extend the Community Visitors Scheme to cover the Commonwealth Home Support Program and seniors waiting for a home care package, a government-commissioned review says.
The social support scheme is being hampered by a low profile and the Commonwealth should better promote the $17 million-a-year-program among aged care providers and consumers, the review by consultants Australian Healthcare Associates has found.
The federally-funded Community Visitors Scheme (CVS), which is delivered by over 200 service providers nationally, matches socially isolated home care package and residential clients with volunteer visitors to provide friendship and companionship.
The program currently provides funding for more than 11,000 visitors, and home care visits make up 27 per cent of funding.
The review, which was completed in January but is yet to be released publicly by the Department of Health, suggests revamping the scheme to improve its reach and visibility.
The report proposes expanding eligibility to all community aged care clients, in line with the government’s plan for an integrated home care program, and allowing vulnerable seniors to access the CVS as soon as they’re approved for a package.
“The period between assessment for, and receipt of, a HCP is a time during which consumers may be particularly isolated, so it would be ideal to introduce the CVS visits at that time,” the report said.
Poor awareness hampering uptake
A lack of awareness of the national program and its referral processes has dampened engagement with the scheme, the review said.
To boost awareness among the sector and wider public, the report suggested increasing the scheme’s prominence on the My Aged Care website and service finder and including information about it within the orientation process for assessment and advocacy staff.
CVS providers told the review the scheme would benefit from greater departmental input, which had diminished over recent years.
Home care visitor scheme struggling
The expansion of the CVS into the home care sector in 2013 has been challenging and a lack of referrals from home care organisations was commonly reported.
“While residential numbers have been strong, home care providers have struggled to fill their funded places,” the final report said.
Only 38 per cent of providers of one-on-one home care visits had met the target of having 90 per cent of funded visitor placed filled, compared with 80 per cent for residential one-on-one visits.
Barriers to take up in home care include concerns around risk management, perceived competition between the CVS and home care providers’ own social support services, and volunteer recruitment challenges.
To help facilitate national consistency, the review suggested the government release an operational guide and introduce mandatory basic training for CVS visitors.
The review also urged the government to consider expanding the digital CVS program for rural and remote clients and encouraging innovation in service delivery such as the involvement of companion animals and use of technology.
The review was conducted between August and December 2016 and received 163 stakeholder submissions. Interviews, focus groups and data analysis were also conducted.