The federal budget handed down on Tuesday night has provided $1.6 billion over four years to fund 23,000 additional home care packages.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said it was the largest single increase of home care packages since the program began and represented a threefold increase in the number of packages since 2013.
The increase will be across all levels of home care, the budget papers say, although they do not offer a breakdown.
“To support senior Australians who wish to stay at home for longer the government is providing $1.6 billion for an additional 23,000 home care packages,” he said.
“This means the number of home care packages will have increased threefold from around 60,300 in 2013 to around 185,500 in 2021.”
The announcment builds on the $325.7 million provided for 6,105 packages announced by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in July.
‘Unprecedented and welcome’
The peak body for non-profit aged care providers Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) welcomed the investment in home care but said it was only a “drop in the bucket” of what was needed to future-proof the sector.
“The home care injection is unprecedented and welcome,” CEO Pat Sparrow said in a statement.
“This is good bang for the buck, however, there will still be thousands of people waiting for the right level of support or any support at all.”
Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) said the budget didn’t address all of the issues, but laid a good platform for the future.
The additional home care funding was vital to help older Australians age in place, CEO Sean Rooney said.
“Our elders deserve this because the vast majority want to continue living in their own homes as they age,” he said in a statement.
“We hope this will help drive down people’s wait times for packages at their assessed level, which has been heartbreakingly up to two years or more.”
Mr Rooney said LASA urged the government to keep investing in extra packages to ensur older people had timely access to the care they needed.
COTA CEO Ian Yates said the consumer advocacy group was also pleased to see the record increase in home care packages.
However, he said it was disappointing that there was no commitment or plan to get waiting times down to 30 days and ensure no one was prematurely forced into residential care.
‘Small but useful’
The budget papers contain other initiatives including $11.3 million to provide additional dementia services and training programs and $10.3 million over three years for implementation of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy.
There’s also a $35.6 million business improvement fund to assist eligible aged care providers, $26.9 million to support the My Aged Care platform and $26 million for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
The budget provides $4.6 million over two years for research into the care needs of senior Australians who live in their own home and $4.1 million to to help the government and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to respond to requests from the aged care royal commission.
More than $125.3 million will be provided over three years to replace the Commonwealth Continuity of Support Program with a new Disability Support for Older Australians program to ensure older Australians with disability who are not eligible for the NDIS continue to receive the supports.
Meanwhile, $3.6 million has been provided to extend the Greater Choice at Home Palliative Care program nationally through primary health networks.
It also includes $10.6 million over three years for a national network of system co-ordinators to help keep younger people with disability out of residential aged care, which was announced last week (read more here).
Ms Sparrow said she welcomed the other “small but useful” initiatives but warned the system needs more than “tinkering”.