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Monday, May 27, 2024

Federal Budget and In-Home care

The Second Part of Our Special Feature

An aspect of the Budget that relates to the aged care reforms we are moving towards regrettably failed to deliver. This aspect is merging the entry-level program, the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), with the Home Care Package Program and the Short-Term Restorative Care program.

The merging of these three programs was recommendation 25 in the Final Report from the Royal Commission. Merging these three programs will provide more equitable access to every person seeking in-home support. At least, that’s the intent of the recommendation.

When these three programs merge, it is anticipated that any unspent funds that providers hold at the entry level will be returned to the Department and used in the combined pool of funding to ensure more people receive the support they need at home.

At the entry-level (CHSP), providers hold the funding. At the Home Care Package level, the person as an individual is assigned the funding, though it still needs to be administered via a provider.

This means to the individual that if the provider of entry-level services doesn’t have the staff, they cannot offer you the service, even though they’re approved for it. At the next level, being assigned a Home Care Package means that you can potentially source your own support workers. You won’t miss out on service provision if a provider doesn’t have the staff.

Across the country, there are providers at entry level who cannot attract and retain the staff to deliver services. The funding the Department has given these providers to deliver those services remains unspent then and accumulates over the years.

There are many, many tens of millions of dollars sitting unspent at entry level, which could be converted to Home Care Packages, or whatever the new terminology will be if recommendation 25 was implemented.

The dialogue over the past couple of years relating to the merging of these three programs and the new name for this combined program suggests the name for the new program may be the Support at Home Program.

The Support at Home Program was to be implemented in July this year, then when elected, Labor delayed the implementation to July 2024, and now, as stated in this year’s Budget will be July 2025.

I accept that merging these three programs is big, but it makes me wonder if this particular reform will eventuate or keep being delayed.

The people who are waiting to receive in-home support cannot keep waiting year after year for the services they need. The reason cited in the Budget for delaying this particular recommendation is that a longer lead time will be beneficial for providers to prepare for this change. We’ve been aware these changes are coming for two years now.

To read the first part, head over to Two-Part Special: Federal Budget and In-Home Aged Care.

Written by Coral Wilkinson, a Registered Nurse with more than 30 years of experience in health and aged care.

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