Older Australians have been labelled as the “winners” after the Budget announcement last night. At first glance, that certainly looks to be the case! But, dig a little deeper and it may not be quite as bright and shiny as it initially seems.
A total of $1.6 billion has been allocated to Home Care Packages, which translates to 23,000 new Packages being released from November. However, of these 23,000 Home Care Packages, 8,000 have been allocated to Level 2 and Level 3 Home Care Packages and 5,000 to Level 1 Home Care Packages.
Unfortunately, only 2,000 have been allocated to people waiting for a Level 4 Home Care Package – those who are most in need.
The good news
The good news is that $1.6 billion has been committed to Home Care Packages, and 23,000 people who have been waiting desperately will soon receive the care and support they need to remain safely at home.
There has certainly been a spotlight on Aged Care recently, and it’s great to see that there is acknowledgement that older people need more help. It’s fantastic that we’re continuing to see more support provided and we’re slowly but surely reducing the number of older Australians on the waiting list for Home Care.
This time last year, there were almost 130,000 people on the waiting list. Currently, it is just over 103,000, and will be lower again after this latest release of Packages. It’s also good to note that this waiting list only includes those people who actually know about Home Care Packages – there are a huge number of older Australians who need help but know even know where to turn. There are also many people who are instead receiving basic, entry-level support through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and will soon need the higher level of care that Home Care Packages provide.
The not-so-good news
The skew of Package allocations seems a little off. We want to keep older adults out of Aged Care Homes, where they are at the most risk of harm from pandemic-like infection, but the current Budget allowance is not going to do this.
If the goal is to keep people out of Aged Care Homes, the people who are in the most need of care (and therefore at most risk of moving into Aged Care Homes) should be the ones to receive Home Care Packages. Sadly, this isn’t the case, with less than 9% of the latest Packages being allocated to Level 4.
Less than 9% of Home Care Packages are going to go towards the people who need it the most.
With just 2,000 Packages allocated to Level 4 Home Care and over 15,000 people waiting for a Level 4 Package, it’s likely that those who do not receive one of these precious few Packages will sadly end up in Residential Aged Care.
We need to keep people at home!
After the huge COVID-19 Aged Care Home crisis (which is still happening), it should be everyone’s priority to keep people at home and out of Residential Aged Care.
So far, over 2,000 Aged Care Home residents have been infected with COVID-19 and more than 670 have died. Compare this to Home Care customers, where just 7 people have died as a result of coronavirus. It’s so important to keep older Australians safe at home for as long as we possibly can.
So far, over 2,000 Aged Care Home residents have been infected with coronavirus and more than 670 have died.
To do this, we need to allocate more Home Care Packages to people who have the highest needs and are the most at risk of being forced into an Aged Care Home. Over the past three years, 30,000 people have died while waiting for Home Care and countless more have been left with no choice but to go into an Aged Care Home. There just aren’t enough high-level Home Care Packages to go around.
How do you think funding should be allocated?
The choice isn’t always an easy one. It comes down to helping lots of people at once, or helping a much smaller group of people who really need it.
A Level 4 Home Care Package is equal to approximately $52,000 per year whereas a Level 1 Home Care Package is around $9,000 per year. To add perspective, if all of the $1.6 billion was spent on Level 1 Home Care Packages, this would allow almost 60,000 people to receive a Package. Yet if the $1.6 billion was allocated entirely to Level 4 Packages, it would only help 10,000 people. *These figures are based on the 3-year average timeframe of a Home Care Package.
This is where the difficult decisions lie – do we allocate a larger portion of the money to lower-level Home Care Packages and therefore help a greater number of people? Or do we prioritise the higher-cost Level 4’s, helping those who need it the most but as a result, sacrificing helping more people?