The nation’s peak advocacy group for older people has called for a three-month waiting time target for home care packages, saying the latest data shows Australians are “crying out for home care support”.
Aged care providers, meanwhile, are pointing to a “worrying and unsustainable” trend in home care provision.
The long-awaited figures, released by aged care minister Ken Wyatt today, show the number of people waiting for their appropriate level of care has increased 3.7 per cent from 104,602 last December to more than 108,000 in March.
A total of 108,456 Australians are currently waiting for their required level of care, although 55,000 of these are on lower-level interim packages. Almost 33,000 people with high needs have not been assigned any care.
It also shows a wait of more than 12 months for high level packages, on par with last quarter’s figures.
Pressure on aged care services
ACSA Ceo Pat Sparrow says it is “beyond frustrating” that about half of those in the queue had been assigned a lower package than they required, while the others were yet to receive a package of any sort.
Limited home care choice and provision would add pressure on other aged care services, Presbyterian Care Australia spokesman Paul Sadler said.
“An inability to access a HCP when it is needed may severely limit the support choices of an older person,” he said. Baptist Care executive director Marcia Balzar warned the situation would continue to deteriorate without action. Anglicare Australia and UnitingCare Australia also expressed concerns about the implications for older Australians.
Need for timetables and targets
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates says the reality about home care is that too many older Australians are still waiting.
“COTA has long said that more home care packages are needed and today’s figures back that up,” he said.
“Both the minister for aged care, Ken Wyatt, and the treasurer have agreed since the budget that even more home care packages are needed, but we need to see the federal government commit to concrete targets and to put a timetable in place to make sure that happens.
“Waiting a whole year for a high-level package is unacceptable in modern Australia.
“We need to set a target of wait times being released to no more than three months.”
However he said COTA was happy that more Australians were accessing home care and that the figures reflected the shift to home as opposed to residential care. He also welcomed the release of 24,000 more packages this financial year
The March quarter Home Care Package data report show a record number of 77,918 people in care, up five per cent from last September, and the release of 41,993 packages.
The government has come under considerable pressure for the delay in releasing the March figures, with the opposition accusing it of sitting on the figures and providers saying it had made if difficult for them to forward-plan.
Aged care minister Ken Wyatt said he had wanted assurance before releasing the data that as many people as possible were receiving support.
“We now know that a record number are receiving home care packages and three-quarters of those listed for home care are receiving federal government support to help them remain living in their own homes,” he said.
Home care: what COTA wants
- additional funding in MYEFO and 2019 budget
- reduce wait times to maximum of three months after assessment
- publish estimated quarterly release of packages and package level in advance
- release data within two months of each quarter.
What the peaks want
- immediate release of more packages with emphasis on higher care levels
- improvements to the assessment process
Read the report in full here