Calls for home care reforms to be fast-tracked as wait times balloon

Published on 11 June 2024 (Last updated on 13 June 2024)

With older people waiting up to 12 months to access a home care package, there are calls for reforms to be fast-tracked to change this. [Copilot]

The Retirement Living Council (RLC) believes home care reforms must be implemented as soon as possible to reduce the wait time for older people to access funds after being approved for a Home Care Package. 

The 2024 Federal Budget included an additional 24,100 Home Care Package (HCP) places for the upcoming financial year. However, new data shows over 68,000 older Australians are currently waiting for Package, double what it was last year.

The Government recognises that it is becoming harder to access Government-funded home care support services, with the lack of growth in Commonwealth Home Support Programme places a contributing factor.

But it is Australia’s ageing population that is the greatest challenge, with a projected 3.4 million Australians aged over 75 by 2024. RLC Executive Director Daniel Gannon said the strain on the aged care system will only increase. 

“The aged care system is breaking under the weight of ever-increasing demand,” Mr Gannon said.

“Year-on-year growth in demand for services, coupled with a reduction in the number of home care providers, has created a situation where older Australians are waiting up to a year to receive urgent support so they can continue to live safely at home. 

“The admission by the Department of Health and Aged Care representatives that the number of older Australians waiting for a home care package is now more than 68,000 means that 68,000 older Australians have had their quality of life diminished, and they are not receiving the support they need to age in place with dignity. 

“The policy approach to home care should reflect the willingness the privately funded retirement living sector has shown to want to help the fight against the aged care crisis.”

The Aged Care Taskforce previously said Australia needs an additional 44,000 home care places per year for 20 years with the Government’s Budget announcement offering just over half the required amount.

There will be updated classification levels in the new Support at Home program slated for a July 2025 introduction. This may help alleviate some of the strain on the system, with help from a single assessment system that streamlines home care eligibility. 

While the benefits from Support at Home remain a possibility for now, Mr Gannon would like to see the Government take a more proactive approach by including retirement living in home care reform plans. 

He said that retirement living villages could make the delivery of home care services almost 20% more efficient while providing the Government with savings of $100 million annually

“This framework could help ensure that older Australians receive more care per dollar invested, while saving the Government money, so it is a win-win,” he said.

“This ‘shared care’ approach would provide three models for retirement village operators to deliver community-based care services under the Support at Home program within the village setting, either independently or through a delivery partner.

“These models have been developed to show that significant efficiencies and savings to consumers and Government can be achieved, even at moderate levels of uptake, with no cost to Government.

“This is because retirement villages provide scale for delivering these services efficiently and cost effectively by reducing travel costs incurred by service providers, increasing the frequency of service delivery, and enhancing the quality and suite of services by leveraging those already in place at these communities.”

With wait times for HCPs sitting around nine to 12 months in some cases, the Government hopes the additional Packages will help bring that back to six months for any package at any level.

aged care
home care
retirement living
Retirement living council
support at home
retirement village
daniel gannon
home care reform
2024 budget