Australia’s peak advocacy body for older Australians, COTA Australia, today welcomed the first ever reduction in numbers of people waiting for Home Care Packages (HCP) but said there are still far too many older Australians waiting more than 18 months for care, while around 43 per day die while waiting.
COTA Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said the government data report released todayshowed the number of older Australians waiting for their approved level of Home Care Package fell from 129,038 to 119,524 in one quarter. Minister Colbeck also advised that at 30 June 125,117 people had access to a HCP, up 25,185 over the year.
“After watching the number of people waiting for home care packages increase year after year a downward trajectory is good news but the waiting list and waiting times are still unacceptably long,” Mr Yates said.
“Official waiting times for Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 HCPs are still more than 12 months and in reality the wait is often longer than 18 months. This is totally unacceptable. No one should have to wait more than three months for the support which government has assessed them as needing. That includes time spent waiting for the assessment, which is not reported and should be in future.”
Mr Yates said COTA is concerned at the implication in the data report that approval for services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) services is a substitute for a Home Care Package.
“The level of support provided by CHSP is nowhere near what’s needed by people who have more complex needs that would be supported by a Home Care Package. We are also receiving a burgeoning number of reports that people who have been approved for CHSP support aren’t able to find the services because services are full. The government knows this is the case and we acknowledge some additional CHSP funding was recently announced.”
Mr Yates said COTA is calling for announcements in the MYEFO statement in December for more HCPs, and a timetable on the rollout of new HCPs to ensure that no one waits longer than three months for care.
The Health Department told the Aged Care Royal Commission it would cost between $2 billion and $2.5 billion per year to bring wait times down to three months, but Mr Yates said it could be less than this if government finally acted, following several delays, to create a single, streamlined home care program with individually planned packages.
“We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment in Question Time yesterday that extra Home Care Packages are one of his government’s highest Budget priorities,” Mr Yates said.
“Older Australians are suffering while waiting for home care support. We can’t wait for the final report from the Royal Commission in November next year for action.
“Funding extra home care now must be an absolute priority to ensure older Australians are treated with the dignity and respect to which they are entitled – an Aged Care Standard to which government itself should be held.”
Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Jenny Stokes 0478 504 280
COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.