Yarra City confirms handover of home care services to Mercy Health

Published on 20 March 2024

Inner Melbourne council Yarra City has confirmed all home care clients will be handed over to Mercy Health. [Source: Yarra City Council]

Following significant consultation with its clients and community, Yarra City Council has decided to transition out of the home care sector, passing its entire suite of services over to Mercy Health.

Key points

  • Mercy Health and Yarra City Council have operated under a hybrid model for 24 years with the aged care provider delivering the bulk of services to over 225 clients
  • Meanwhile, the Council looks after 137 clients through in-house staff, with those 137 clients to be transitioned to Mercy Health over the next 6-12 months
  • The Council has cited delays to the Government’s aged care reform rollout as a key factor in exiting the home care sector

Originally set for launch in July 2023, the Government’s new Support At Home home care system has twice been delayed with a July 2025 implementation date currently set. This will be the first stage with a second rollout for Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) providers to begin no earlier than July 2027. 

Because of these delays, Yarra City Mayor Edward Crossland said the Council had to make a decision on its service delivery that would provide all clients with certainty and security. 

“To make sure Yarra’s older residents get the best outcomes for their health and wellbeing under the new Federal model for aged care, Council is making changes to our home care services,” Mr Crossland said.

“Significant delays to the implementation of the Federal Government’s aged care reforms announced eight years ago, have created a great amount of uncertainty for our aged care clients about the future of their care. With this decision, we are pleased to provide certainty to our aged care clients.”

Yarra City’s decision is similar to that of nearby Melbourne council, the City of Port Phillip, which recently announced its departure from the home care sector. They said rising costs to provide high-quality care were too much, and it could instead use existing funds to support community service provision such as resident transport and meal delivery.

Similarly, Yarra City Council is not in a position to deliver higher needs care, which is currently provided by Mercy Health. Passing over all their clients to the aged care provider means they would receive better continuity of care as healthcare circumstances change, Mr Crossland explained.

“At Yarra, our home care services include mainly assistance with cleaning and household chores, as well as showering and dressing for a small number of clients and respite for carers. Council staff almost exclusively provide entry-level care like cleaning on an average of once a fortnight, with the higher needs care provided by Mercy Health,” he said. 

“The 137 clients, who on average receive a cleaning service from Council staff once a fortnight, will begin to receive that service from our long-term, not-for-profit specialist provider. This means as their needs escalate, they can receive higher levels of care and continuity from the one provider.”

Metropolitan councils have consistently moved away from the home care sector after the Government first announced the Support at Home program. Active collaboration with existing aged care providers or the Government has resulted in not-for-profit or private providers stepping into the market. 

Regional councils without the same options have bucked the trend, including Moyne Shire. Without the same depth of aged care services in regional Victoria, they opted to keep supporting residents with ongoing home care support as they felt best placed to support clients.

“We intentionally went into the review open-minded in terms of wanting to look at the considerations around viability,” Edith Farrell, Director Assets and Community at Moyne Shire Council, told hello leaders.

“We had an extensive consultation process and that was a big factor in informing Council’s decision. The other factors included financial considerations, the quality of our service where it’s currently at and what it might take to optimise that service to ensure we can operate as a viable enterprise going forward.”

As for Yarra City Council, their priority is to ensure existing clients are well-supported throughout their transition to Mercy Health over the next 6-12 months. Mr Crossland said this will be the best option moving forward and that community engagement has highlighted areas where they can focus council services to keep clients supported.

“We want to make sure we invest in aged care services and programs where we can have the most impact and where there are gaps that need to be addressed. This change in service delivery will allow Yarra to focus on programs for older people which enhance community connections and promote social inclusion,” he added.

“Council is committed to growing and developing our community-based services for older residents including community meals, social support programs, and community transport and supporting an age-friendly, inclusive, and accessible Yarra.”

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