The report comes six months after the implementation of the Increasing Choice Home Care (ICHC) reforms, which were a major shift in the Australian aged care system with the aim of giving consumers greater choice over the services, and support they receive in their own homes.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates says the report, which shows that as of 30 June 2017 there were over 53,000 people waiting for a home care package and over 35,000 more on a lower package than they have been approved to receive, reveals for the first time, the full extent of the issues many older people and their families have been experiencing.
He adds that the aged care system is not yet meeting the needs of many older Australians across the country, particularly for high-level support and care in their home.
“This report reveals a shortfall in the number of home care package and misallocation between lower and higher levels of packages, far greater than most expected,” Mr Yates says.
“It’s shocking that over 53,000 older people are reported as having been assessed as needing care at home and yet are simply not getting it; and another 35,000 are receiving a level of care below what they have been assessed as needing.
“That’s nearly 90,000 elderly Australians going without any or enough physiotherapy, or home help, or support for showering and other personal care, or transport appointments.
“As a result, older people either suffer, are waiting, or additional pressures are placed on families and neighbours to fill the gaps. This is not sustainable.”
Aged Care Services Australia (ACSA) Chief Executive Officer Pat Sparrow says that despite an additional 6,000 level 3 and 4 packages recently released by the Government, there are still an “unacceptably high number of people waiting for a package”.
“The level of unmet demand for home care packages, particularly at level 3 and 4, is an issue that can only be addressed with more overall investment,” Ms Sparrow says.
“ACSA wants to see a balanced aged care system that supports the care needs of all older Australians allowing those with higher care needs to access services but not at the expense of those requiring lower level care.”
The need for urgent action has also been suggested by Mr Yates who says the shortfall of support is most chronic for people requiring the highest levels of care at home.
“Ultimately though, what we need to see is bipartisan support for prompt reform of the whole system to keep pace with need and deliver more packages to more people,” he says.
“This could start with transferring resources from residential aged care to home care packages, as recommended by the Tune report, which can be done within the current funding envelope, and should be considered as soon as possible, without holding back until the next Budget.”