Older Australians may be failing to access services available under the Commonwealth home care program because they find the system so confusing, a study indicates.

Dr Catherine Joyce

The lack of confidence is contributing to the blow-out in unspent funds, currently at more than $1 billion, researcher Dr Catherine Joyce says.

The report published in the latest edition of the Australasian Journal on Ageing, found 43 per cent of people who have been allocated a home care package aren’t accessing services because they lack the confidence to do so.

Dr Joyce, how an Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University and general manager of quality, outcomes and research at aged care provider Benetas, says the results are hardly surprising.

But she about one in two people who have been allocated home care package aren’t using it and restoring consumer confidence is crucial if older people are to proactively access services provided by the program.

“The Government subsidised home care package system is incredibly complex and getting clear information during the lengthy application and allocation process is not easy,” she says.

“While the study found that patterns of behaviour meant there would always be some level of unspent funds, this figure is drastically too high and indicates a significant need to focus on building consumer confidence.”

What’s driving the accumulation of unspent funds?

The study sought to understand what is driving the accumulation of unspent funds, based on interviews with 38 Benetas home care package clients between December 2018-2019.

It found a person’s experiences during assessment and entry, as well as their understanding of their funding, influenced their spending decisions.

The researchers said knowledge and understanding about entitlements, available funds and processes associated with the system remains low three years after the introduction of consumer directed care, as does active management of package funds by recipients.

They also found an immature market, with gaps in service, information and support.

Features of the home care market are similar to those seen in the early days of the NDIs, the study says, where up to 40 per cent of funds were unspent thanks to poor planning, insufficient supply and poor access to information.

“The evolving nature of current arrangements serves as a reminder of the magnitude of the transition associated with consumer directed care,” it concludes.

The research also found only three of the 38 participants had looked at the My Aged Care website.

Dr Joyce says the study highlights the need to provide navigation for consumers during the home care application and navigation process, as well as making it as streamlined and user friendly as possible.

Writing in the study, she says current trials of aged care system navigators may help fill the current gap in supports.

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4 Comments

  1. I have interviewed 70 people with home care packages.
    Several participants with provider-managed home care packages had a large surplus in their account because they could not access the types of services they needed/wanted. In contrast, participants who self-managed accessed services they needed. The only reason for those who self-manage gave for having a surplus was saving some funds for a future expense – such as a bathroom renovation.

  2. I don’t think it is so much that Home Care Package recipients are confused, it is more a case of service providers not doing the research to find and deliver the services to them that they want. This is the reason my balance is what it is. In my experience, Service Providers DO NOT make it easy to actually get the services and/or items recipients want and need which, I might add, come under the ‘acceptable’ activity. Hence, if recipients are able, they are far better self managing their package. I do wish ‘someone’ would start an e-newsletter like this for the Home Care Package RECIPIENT community to get some balance into comments.

  3. I agree with Kathy’s comment that the Service Providers do not always practice the consumer directed care model as much as they should. Case managers differ so much in experience and skill within organizations let alone between service providers that its the luck of the draw as to how well a Home Care Package is managed. The option of self managing their package is certainly a good option for the client if they are able to do so, but many clients are not even aware that they are able to do this. This again is a failing of communication from the service provider.
    In my opionion all case managers should be registered with a peak body and have regular education and training updates
    Having large case loads adds to the difficulty of case managers supporting their clients to get the best from their HCP. This needs to be recognised by Service Providers in order to ensure that their staff are not overwhelmed and can deliver the person centred, client directed care that is essential, expected and deserved.
    Case managers need to be able to have a good idea of who the client is. Their likes and dislikes, social history and other information which will allow them to best support their clients. This is of particular importance for clients who may have some cognitive decline, but important for everyone.
    A good knowlege of the client makes care planning more personal for that client and not a “cookie cutter” document. This then allows the staff to support the clients as the individual that they are.
    Good idea Kathy re the newsletter for the recipients of services via Home Care Package funding. That would be a great way for sharing ideas and senarios, both positive and not so positive.

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