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.