Some 23 per cent of complaints to the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner now relate to home and community-based care services, up eight per cent since 2015, the latest data shows.
While the vast bulk of the 4,500 complaints received each year continue to primarily concern residential care, the share of complaints relating to home care and support was growing steadily, Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb told an industry conference last week.
The main issues relate to financial complaints, particularly concerns over value for money and administration charges; issues with poor communication; and concerns over service quality, such as not taking into account the individual needs and preferences of home care consumers, she said.
Ms Lamb told the Implementing Increased Choice in Aged Care conference in Sydney the top five issues in community aged care related to:
- Financial matters
- Communication and consultation
- Social and domestic assistance
- Client assessment and service implementation
- Communication about fees and charges.
Ms Lamb said the overall growth in home care complaints was a positive trend and showed that consumers were informed of the commissioner’s office and felt confident to raise their concerns.
On 1 January 2016, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner took over the functions of the Department’s former Aged Care Complaints Scheme.
Small number of complaints relate to 27 February changes
In the first three months following the introduction of changes to home care packages from 27 February, the commissioner received only 35 enquiries relating to the reforms, with many falling outside the scope of the agency, such as enquiries regarding the new national queue and waiting times for packages.
Ms Lamb confirmed concerns relating to poor consultation over the inclusion of exit fees in home care agreements had been raised with the agency.
In March, the complaints commissioner received a total of 20 contacts with matters concerning the home care changes, including five complaints. By the end of May, the number of contacts had dropped to just three, with no complaints received.
Ms Lamb encouraged service providers to resolve complaints early and recognise complaints as a valuable opportunity for continuous learning and quality improvement.
Complaints should be seen as “part of the everyday fabric of doing business,” she told the event hosted by COTA Australia and Criterion.
She also urged service providers to understand their rights and responsibilities, including under Australian Consumer Law in an environment of increased consumer choice and control.
She said ensuring information was delivered to consumers in a way that could be easily understood and supported informed decision-making would become increasingly important.
Implementation of reform to home care packages
Elsewhere, the Department of Health told the Sydney conference 47,000 home care packages had been released since 27 February through the national prioritisation process, and around one-third of packages were automatic upgrades.
The Department of Health’s assistant secretary for home care reform, Shona McQueen, said expected consumer wait times for a package would be published via My Aged Care in late July.
The department repeated its position that it was reconsidering the language used in its letters to consumers to ensure its communication was clear and easily understood, but did not provide a time commitment for the implementation of any changes.
Ms McQueen also told the event the department was considering introducing a phone call for inactive consumers after 35 days of being assigned a package. Currently, consumers are sent a reminder letter after 35 days if the system identifies they haven’t yet taken up their package.
Sector stakeholders have been feeding back to the department that more active management and support to consumers was required during the 56-period for taking up an assigned package.