$100m to help seniors live at home longer

As waiting lists for home care packages keep rising, the federal government this week committed an extra $100 million over two years to help older Australians stay in their own homes.

The funding will go to existing providers of the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), which offers entry-level services, including domestic help, meals, transport, home maintenance and modifications, outside of the Home Care Packages Program.

Around 800,000 Australians receive Commonwealth Home Support, which is often provided as an interim measure for people until they can access a Home Care Package.

National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke was one of several aged care advocates who said the funding boost was insufficient to meet the demands of an ageing population.

It came as the latest Home Care Packages Program figures revealed the number of people waiting for an appropriate-level package had grown from 88,000 in June 2017 to 108,000 in March 2018 to 121,000 at the end of June this year.

Those older people at greatest need remained the worst off, according to the latest data, with the waiting time for the higher-level care three and four packages now more than a year. More than 95,000 people with high needs were waiting for a level three or four package.

Mr Henschke said it was disappointing the waiting lists for home care packages kept rising. Over the past year, the increase had been between 2000 and 3000 people a month.

“Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said this week the number of Australians receiving home care packages has jumped by more than 20 per cent in the past 12 months.

“He also said in the year to the end of March an extra 14,392 people were receiving home care packages, taking the total number to close to 85,000.

“Supply is being increased by 20 per cent a year but demand is far greater. We also know many of the people who have low-level one and two packages need higher-level three and four packages.

“National Seniors is being contacted with stories of old people dying before they receive the high-level home care that they’ve been approved for.

“We think the government needs to provide clarity about how they plan to address the shortfall.”

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said the extra Commonwealth Home Support funding was about giving senior Australians more certainty, options and independence.

“Our government is committed to giving senior Australians as many choices as possible to remain living in the security of the homes they love, close to their families and connected with their communities,” Mr Wyatt said.

The growth areas to be funded would include household jobs like cleaning and laundry; general repairs and care of homes and gardens; modifications such as alarms, ramps and support rails; more transport for shopping and appointments; and meals at home and in community centres.

“Our ageing population and the evolving needs and wishes of senior Australians are driving an increasing demand for home-based services,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The new CHSP funding builds on our government’s record $5 billion aged care boost, announced in the 2018-19 federal budget, supporting people through better access to care, better quality of care, and better ageing.”

The CHSP is available to people aged 65 years and over, or 50 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

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