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Home care needs extra $2 billion a year to fix wait problem

The federal government would need to spend an additional $2 to 2.5 billion a year to fix the long wait for elderly people to get the support they need to remain in their homes, the aged care royal commission has heard.

The government has already boosted funding for home care packages to $2.6 billion annually, but senior health department officials say it is not enough.

Fiona Buffinton, who heads up the health department’s In Home Aged Care division, concedes the program is not effectively meeting the in-home care needs of senior Australians.

“I absolutely acknowledge that the unprecedented demand has led to unprecedented growth of the wait list and therefore wait times,” she said.

Cutting the current wait time of a year or longer to a reasonable and acceptable level – being three months – will require additional government investment, the aged care royal commission heard on Friday.

Buffinton said the government had already put an additional $1 billion into the home care program in the last two years, taking funding to about $2.6 billion a year, and announced increased investment to make more places available over the next four years.

“In answer to your question will this be sufficient to get wait times to a reasonable level? It will need additional investment to that,” she said.

About 92,000 people were accessing home care packages in June 2018, up from 64,000 two years earlier.

But the royal commission heard there were currently 128,500 people either on the waiting list or not receiving their approved level of care.

Getting all people on the waiting list attached to home care within three months would require in the order of $800 million extra a year, Buffinton estimated.

But getting them the actual level of home care they had been assessed as needing would require an additional $2 to 2.5 billion per annum, she said.

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