Providers face getting left behind despite key budget investments

Published on 22 May 2024 (Last updated on 13 June 2024)

Paul Sadler believes CHSP providers have been left behind following the 2024 Budget announcements. [Supplied]

While the 2024 Budget promised $2.2 billion to the aged care sector, experienced aged care consultant Paul Sadler fears the Commonwealth Home Support Programme is being left behind in the home care reform journey. 

He also shared his concerns over the substantial IT investments, warning it could all go to waste if the Government departments benefit and providers do not.

Mr Sadler, Co-Founder of Invox and a former Interim CEO of ACCPA, told hello leaders it was a “steady as she goes” budget from the Labour Government. He highlighted home care investments as one of the most welcomed initiatives, although he added it’s not quite enough.

“The areas the Government chose to invest in weren’t that surprising and probably all necessary. Extra Home Care Packages made absolute sense. The Aged Care Taskforce said we need 44,000 additional home care places per year for 20 years,” Mr Sadler said.

“That means 24,100, new Home Care Packages will only make up half of the new demand this coming financial year, on top of a 51,000-person waiting list.”

“The biggest point we were all hoping and waiting for was the response to the Aged Care Taskforce report, which didn’t come with the budget,” he added.

Mr Sadler’s current work sees an increased focus on the home care sector as it heads toward Support at Home implementation. 

With the Government focused on transitioning the Home Care Package (HCP) program to Support at Home in 12 months, he labelled the Government’s redirection of unspent Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) funds a “very odd decision”.

“We know there are waiting lists for CHSP services around the country, the Government’s just released $100 million of growth funds. That’s the first growth round since 2019,” he said.

“Since there’s been massive growth in Home Care Packages I can understand why the Government’s let investment in CHSP die a bit but the reality is the number of CHSP service users hasn’t risen for six or seven years […] they’ve been gradually declining rather than increasing, which suggests it’s being left alone by successive governments.”

One of the major issues for CHSP, the entry-level home care service for older people, is that many people being assessed for a Home Care Package are referred to it while they wait for their assessment to be finalised. 

Therefore, many people who could benefit from the CHSP but are not eligible for a Home Care Package are missing out on services because no new places are available. The 24,100 additional Home Care Packages may ease the burden, but only if wait times are also reduced.

Reform delays are a smart decision

With a steady approach to aged care investments in 2024 it’s clear the Labour Government has slowed down some of the reform timeline after two years of major funding growth. While disappointing in some ways, it’s a necessary delay according to Mr Sadler.

“This is generational reform: a new Aged Care Act, we haven’t done that for 25 years. It’s something that takes time to get right and if the Government were to go ahead when the settings weren’t resolved properly you could end up with some bad consequences for service users,” Mr Sadler said.

He added that we should see progress on the new Act when Parliament sits in June, with the Bill hopefully introduced by September or October at the latest. Fees and charges are a likely focal point of the next Aged Care Act draft as they were not included in the exposure draft. 

As for the 2024 Budget itself and its top priorities, $1.2 billion is dedicated to creating modern digital systems that support the new Aged Care Act and Support at Home program over the next five years.

Although an investment of this magnitude should have a dramatic impact on the sector, Mr Sadler said it would be a disappointment if providers don’t receive any direct benefit.

“It’s not clear how much, if any of that, is coming to support providers to implement IT changes. It’s clear the majority of funds are going to the Government to pay for upgrades of its technology, which will supposedly have flow-on benefits for providers,” he said.

“But if very little of it actually flows through to providers to upgrade their equipment and software they’re going to struggle to meet the demands of the Government. It is essential that not all of that $1.2 billion investment gets sucked up by the Government’s own entities like the Aged Care Commission and the Department of Health and Aged Care.”

aged care
home care
Paul Sadler
support at home
aged care funding
2024 budget