Home care waiting list drops by less than 1,000 during COVID: Level 4 recipients now waiting 12-plus months – to receive a Level 2

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103,599 older Australians were waiting for their approved home care package as of 31 March 2020 – a drop of 838 places since the end of December 2019, according to the latest home care packages data report for the third quarter of 2019-2020.

Despite the small drop, the numbers as a whole don’t appear so bad.

152,000 people now receiving home care

In total, 151,958 people now have access to a home care package – a 4.6% (6,638) increase since 31 December 2019 (145,320), again in 13 weeks.

The report – which covers 1 January to 31 March 2020 – shows there were 39,650 home care packages allocated in the March 2020 quarter – an average of 3,050 per week.

This means around 3,000 people per week either began receiving a package for the first time or were moved from an interim package to the level they were actually approved for.

28,000 people approved for services

There were 28,666 home care approvals in the March 2020 quarter – an 8.2% (2,180) increase on the approvals in the March 2019 quarter (26,486).

15,049 of these older Australians were still considering whether to take up their package offer – which, given these numbers cover the start of the pandemic, indicates that some may have been reluctant to accept outside carers into their home.

38% increase in number of people receiving care over 12 months

However, the remaining 136,909 people receiving home care represents a 38.1% (37,799) increase over the 12 months from 31 March 2019 (99,110) – maybe not a bad result when you consider the implementation process.

63,809 of these were also in a high level (level 3 or 4) home care package – a 40.3% (18,342) jump on the numbers on 31 March 2019 (45,467).

Older Australians still waiting years

But the figures fall down when you take a closer look at the waiting times.

Check out the graph above.

As you can see, older Australians approved for Level 1, 2 or 3 packages had an estimated wait of between three to six months to receive their first package – a Level 1.

Those waiting for a Level 4 package waited over 12 months – to receive a Level 2, plus another 12-plus month wait to receive their approved package.

97% of those waiting have access to CHSP

97.3% (57,474) of the 59,071 people seeking a home care package at their approved level had been provided with an approval to access CHSP.

But to paraphrase Royal Commissioner Lynelle Briggs at last week’s mental health, oral health and allied health, older Australians do not have years to wait. They either struggle on using an interim package, enter residential care or die.

Labor lambasts figures

Labor’s aged care spokesperson Julie Collins puts this final figure at almost 30,000 deaths in the last two years.

“With COVID-19 likely to result in even more older Australians choosing to receive aged care at home, the Morrison government must do more,” she said about the results.

Government has released over 50,000 packages in two years

As we reported here, the Federal Government last week released another 6,105 Level 1, 2 and 3 packages at a cost of $325.7 million in an effort to reduce the waiting times for some of the lower-level packages which had blown out to be almost as long as those for the highest Level 4 packages.

The packages were the first new release since Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $496.3 million for 10,000 Home Care Packages last November in the wake of the Royal Commission’s Interim Report which labelled the home care waiting list a “cruel and discriminatory system” where people could wait years for their approved packages.

Minister says “full impact” of new packages yet to be felt

The Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, has attempted to downplay these latest figures saying: “with around 136,909 in care as at 31 March … this represents an increase of around 38% over 12 months”.

The Minister added that “the full impact” of the 10,000 packages announced last November was also “not yet evident” in the report.

But the fact is 10,000 packages is unlikely to make a real difference in the overall numbers.

The question, as always, comes back to money: will the Government – and consumers – be prepared to foot the bill to keep people living at home longer? And will they have the cash?

See this story.