Stakeholders have mostly reacted favourably to the announcement that plans for a single home care program have been delayed until 2027.
An amalgamation of the existing Home Care Packages Program, the Short-Term Restorative Care Program and the Commonwealth Home Support Program, was most recently scheduled to launch as the new Support at Home program from 1 July 2025.
However, in a statement released on Tuesday evening by the office of the Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells, it has been revealed that CHSP – by far the largest component of Support at Home – won’t be included in the program until “no earlier than 1 July 2027”.
“I have listened to CHSP providers who have advocated for more time to prepare for reforms to ensure they can transition their operations and clients smoothly,” said Ms Wells.
In response, Benetas chief executive officer Sandra Hills told Community Care Review the not-for-profit provider understood the government’s decision as consolidating the home care sector “is not a simple process and was always going to be a significant undertaking.”
“The extension will allow for a more orderly and thoughtful approach, which will help providers continue to deliver high-quality home care services and the opportunity to communicate changes to clients,” she said.
Ms Hills added that it was important the government supported providers from now to the revised implementation date to ease the changeover. “Regular consultation and detailed updates on the roadmap from here to 2027 will be crucial in helping providers and clients make this transition.”
Yvonne Timson – CEO of Western Australia-based not-for-profit community services provider Community Vision – said she welcomed the breathing space. “It is great that the Commonwealth has acknowledged the need for time for providers to transition from CHSP and for time to plan out how to transition over 800,000 older Australians to the Support at Home program.”
However, Ms Timson did express a concern that older Australians may be confused as to why some people will move to a different home care program two years before others. “It raises the question what happens if an older Australian declines during this two-year delay period and requires more support? We are yet to know and understand how this will be managed,” she told CCR.
Lorraine Poulos – director of aged care consultancy firm LPA – said the announcement came as something of a surprise to many stakeholders. “The message from government has consistently been that July 2025 is the deadline for commencement of the new program,” she said.
However, Ms Poulos told CCR that, ultimately, it was a “good decision”. “I think this change is more about readiness of government and providers. The reform readiness work that home care providers are currently doing needs to continue in earnest.”
Whilst recognising that the sector is “fatigued” and wanting more solid information about the future, Ms Poulos said “we also believe that the planned changes will be beneficial to older Australians once all the current challenges and problems with the current system are worked out.”
“A positive and sensible decision.”
Kim McLean is ageing coordinator at Orange City Council and the CHSP support and development officer for the central-west region of New South Wales. Also speaking to CCR Ms McLean said, while there were “mixed feelings on-the-ground”, most providers viewed the move as a “positive and sensible decision.”
“Providers have done so much work in preparing for the reforms – building staff capability, systems and board governance, reviewing IT needs – but without the firm details, the changeover date was looming up fast. As a provider mentioned, not really knowing what was going to happen was making it difficult.”
She added: “There are so many things right but also painful about the current CHSP system.”
Jason Howie – partner strategy and corporate governance at aged care consultancy firm Pride Living – was of a different view and said the delay was far from ideal.
“The announcement regarding further delays in the Support at Home program further extend the uncertainty for consumers and organisations. It represents further lost time in improving home care services for the care of our loved ones, and our future selves,” Mr Howie told CCR.
He added: “The sector will only start to invest and move forward when it is provided with some certainty regarding the business model that will underpin these services in the future.”
In a statement, Patricia Sparrow – CEO of advocacy group Council on the Ageing Australia – said older Australians had already been waiting for more than a decade for one “transparent and seamless” home care system to support them as they age in place.
“This announcement is the latest in a string of delays in delivering the [Support at Home] program, long advocated by COTA and many other advocates for older people – and recommended by the royal commission. Allowing [CHSP] to continue in its present form for another four years is incredibly disappointing and a real setback for many older people and their families.”
Although the CHSP changeover has been postponed, from 1 July 2025, Support at Home will still replace the existing HCP and STRC programs.
The staggered approach will give CHSP providers “time to change their business systems and adjust to new payment arrangements,” read the government’s statement. “This will ensure they can operate successfully under Support at Home and avoid disruptions for their clients.”
In the statement, the Department of Health and Aged Care has assured HCP and STRC providers that it will support them to ensure they are prepared to transition to Support at Home “well ahead of 1 July 2025.”
“We will continue to work with in-home care providers to deliver a Support at Home program that will simplify and improve access to services for older people,” said Ms Wells.