The number of home care providers in Australia has outstripped the number of residential care providers for the first time, government figures show.
The 2018-19 report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act shows that at the end of June there were 928 home care package providers compared to 873 residential care providers, with the government spending $2.5 billion in home care subsidies and supplements.
This compares to 702 home care and 902 residential providers in 2016-17, the year in which the Increasing Choice in Home Care reforms were introduced.
Between June 30 2018 and June 30 2019, the number of operational approved home care providers grew 6.3 per cent from 873s.
“The growth in the sector reflects the attractiveness of a more market-based environment where there is greater choice for people and increased investment in home care, in line with consumer preferences,” the report says.
More than 1,450 organisations were funded to deliver CHSP services to 840,984 clients at a cost of $2.5 billion this year.
Over 1.3 million Australians received aged care and the vast majority of that was provided outside of residential care.
The figures show 21 per cent of aged care consumers received residential care with the rest receiving CHSP (66 per cent), home care (10 per cent) and restorative care (2 per cent).
The government spent $2.5 billion on home care and $3.3 billion on CHSP, compared to $13 billion on residential.
As of June 2019, there were 106,707 people in a home care package, up from 14,860 just a year ago.
Religious, charitable and community-based providers delivered the lion’s share of home care, providing assistance to 72.3 per cent of people. For-profit providers delivered care to 20.9 per cent, and government providers delivered care to 6.8 per cent.
A total of 178, 363 ACAT assessments were done in 2018-19 with the average age for entry to a home care package 80.5 for men and 81.1 for women.
In 2019, there were an estimated 387,800 Australians with dementia, nearly half of whom were aged 85 years and over. The number of people with dementia is predicted to grow to around 900,000 by 20503.
Concerns about ‘bottom feeders’
Home care researcher Dr Mikaela Jorgensen, from Macquarie University, said older people needed to be empowered to benefit from the growth in providers.
“A greater number of providers has the potential to create more choice and tailored services, but only where there is clear and accessible information for older people and their families to compare services, prices and provider quality,” she told Community Care Review. “Currently there isn’t.”
She said the Royal Commission had also highlighted the potential risks of the explosion of new providers since the 2017 reforms in terms of quality and motivation, with evidence about the entry into the market of “bottom feeders” who viewed home care simply as a get-rich-quick opportunity.
LASA CEO Sean Rooney said the industry peak supported the growth in the number of home care providers to give more older Australians the chance to age in place.
However he said residential care was just as important in meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of older people.
“Regrettably, government support for both these areas of aged care is inadequate,” Mr Rooney told Community Care Review.
“Despite the rollout of 10,000 new home care packages from December, there’s no structured plan to meet the needs of the almost 120,000 people on the national queue waiting for essential care and support at their assessed level of need.”
Writing in the report, Aged care minister Richard Colbeck said the past year has been a challenging one with the Royal Commission putting a spotlight on aged care but the government would continue its reform agenda and ensure past mistakes aren’t repeated.