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Peak bodies say Home Care Package waitlist is still in crisis

New figures released by the Department of Health (DoH) shows that the waitlist for Home Care Packages has lowered to 120,000 older Australians, however, peak bodies believe the current list is still in crisis and ask for urgent Government action to address the problem.

While peak bodies are happy that the Home Care Package waitlist is getting smaller, they all agree that more needs to be done by Government. [Source: Shutterstock]
While peak bodies are happy that the Home Care Package waitlist is getting smaller, they all agree that more needs to be done by Government. [Source: Shutterstock]

The DoH released the figures yesterday showcasing the shrinking list of people waiting for Home Care Packages and highlighted that those on the list are waiting more than a year for an allocated package.

Last quarter, the Home Care Package waiting list was approximately 129,038 and has slowly reduced to 119,524 people waiting for a package.

This is the first drop in numbers since the Home Care Package queue was created in 2017.

Consumer peak body, National Seniors, acknowledges that there is a shrinking number of people waiting for their packages and that the Federal Government is taking action to help this, but says there is still more work to be done to help everyone involved.

National Seniors Chief Advocate, Ian Henschke, says, “Older Australians overwhelmingly want to stay in their home, which costs the government less than placing them in nursing homes.

“We continue to hear of people dying waiting for the home care package they desperately needed and others ending up in residential care prematurely.”

National Seniors wants the Government to commit to double the number of Level 3 and Level 4 Home Care Packages.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety hearings recently revealed that in 2018 16,000 older Australians died waiting for a Home Care Package and 13,000 people were placed into aged care facilities while waiting for a package they never received.

Mr Henschke wants the Government to take more action in the budget to reduce the numbers of people dying while waiting for Home Care Packages.

“In the upcoming budget, we hope the government will hear the desperate cries of carers who want some care put back into aged care,” says Mr Henschke.

“They are helping their loved ones and they just need a helping hand themselves.”

industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), has similar opinions to National Seniors, welcoming the reduction in waiting lists but believe there are still too many older people not receiving the level of care they require while waiting for a package.

LASA Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Sean Rooney, says since this is the first time there has been a fall in the queue number in its history, it’s welcome news. “LASA applauds the Government’s noteworthy commitment to release more Home Care Packages. However, it is still not good enough that at 30 June 2019, there were 119,524 elderly Australians waiting for a Home Care Package at their approved level,” says Mr Rooney.

“Waiting times for a Home Care Package in many locations are still often more than 12 months or longer, and in some cases, over 24 months.

“LASA renews its call on the Government to develop a sustainable funding strategy for home care that considers all the available public and private funding levers and to legislate maximum wait times of no more than three months for home care services.”

LASA is also asking for more work to be done in providing funding for higher-level Home Care Packages.

Additionally, LASA calls for advancing the integration of the Home Care Package program and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) beyond June 2022.

Peak body for non-profit aged care providers, Aged and Community Services (ACSA), says the reduction in the home care waiting list is good, but not good enough with still over 110,000 still waiting for a package.

ACSA CEO, Patricia Sparrow, says, “This reduction of around 6 percent of people waiting for a package is unfortunately just a drop in the ocean of people desperately needing better support at home.

“This is great news for those that are now getting a package, but what about everyone else?

“Being on a home care waitlist is not just an inconvenience. If people have to wait it can have a lasting impact on a person’s health. It can lead to increased pressure on already stretched hospitals, someone has to enter residential care, or worse, that they die waiting for support that never arrives.

“Those people who are still waiting face 12 or more months to get the support they need. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. “

Ms Sparrow says that the report also shows that people waiting for a package have been sent on to receive services from the CHSP, but since those referrals are now increasing, it isn’t a guarantee that people will be able to get that support while waiting for a package.

ACSA believes the report shows that if Government invests in aged care and provides more packages, more people will get assistance.

“Government needs to continue to invest to assist older Australians. ACSA is calling for an urgent boost of 40,000 packages and a strategy to ensure people can get a package within 3 months,” says Ms Sparrow.

“If you’re one of the 119,000 people still waiting for a home care package – this news means little to nothing.”

Peak advocacy body for older Australians, COTA Australia, says that there are still way too many older Australians waiting over 18 months for care and around 43 people dying per day while waiting.

COTA Chief Executive, Ian Yates, says, “After watching the number of people waiting for home care packages increase year after year, a downward trajectory is good news but the waiting list and waiting times are still unacceptably long.

 “Official waiting times for Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 HCPs are still more than 12 months and in reality the wait is often longer than 18 months. This is totally unacceptable. No one should have to wait more than three months for the support which Government has assessed them as needing.

“The level of support provided by CHSP is nowhere near what’s needed by people who have more complex needs that would be supported by a Home Care Package. We are also receiving a burgeoning number of reports that people who have been approved for CHSP support aren’t able to find the services because services are full.”

Mr Yates adds that the Department of Health recently told the Aged Care Royal Commission it would take around $2 billion every year to bring wait times for Home Care Packages down to three months, if Government were willing to commit to solving the problem.

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