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Rollout needs more work: LASA on Increasing Choice in Home Care

More work needs to be done on the rollout of the government’s Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) program, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) says.

Announced in the 2015-16 Budget and commenced on 27 February 2017, the ICHC reforms aimed to improve the way that home care services are delivered to older Australians.

Sean Rooney, chief executive of LASA, said the peak’s research has revealed a number of aspects of the rollout that it wants to work with government to address.

The Second Home Care Provider Survey found while available home care packages increased by 14 per cent from 79,000 to 90,000, there was a much smaller increase in consumer activation of packages (4.7 per cent).

LASA said this increase appears lower than what would be expected. “Extrapolated to a system-wide level, a 4.7 per cent increase translates to nearly 7,000 less HCPs than what should be activated if all consumers were to activate their assigned package. “This suggests further investigation and investment is required to improve the rate with which consumers activate HCPs once they are assigned to them,” the report said.

It also found that premature residential care admissions due to a shortage of high level home care packages occurred at a rate of 2.7 per cent of all packages and the extent of accumulated unspent home care package funds is estimated to be between $200-$350 million system-wide.

LASA added the number of package upgrades for existing home care consumers to a higher level home care package increased significantly across the six months, and said this highlights the effectiveness of the My Aged Care system in facilitating consumer upgrades consistent with demand.

The home care package rollout is being challenged by the implementation of significant system changes that support greater consumer choice while the system is also straining to keep up with growing demand, Rooney said.

“In the short term, more work needs to be done to ensure that available packages are reaching those who need them most. This should include re-allocating inactive packages and utilising the unspent funds in existing packages.

“In addition, looking towards next year’s Budget, a significant injection of funding will also be required to address the current waiting list and to make the system sustainable in the longer term,” Rooney said.

He said data previously released by the government shows there are over 50,000 older Australians awaiting a home care package, with a further 35,000 people receiving services below their assessed level of need. He said this critical shortage remains the key issue.

Rooney added the government’s reform agenda in aged care is necessary and ambitious, and the ICHC implementation is an evolving process with ongoing systems and process improvements in place to support the rollout of the home care reform program.

“LASA and our members stand ready to work with the Government and others to resolve the identified issues in the service of older Australians.”

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