Home care waiting list falls by just 2,000 in six months – will the Government be prepared to take up the Counsel Assisting’s recommendation to clear the queue?

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The number of older Australians in the home care prioritisation queue has dropped by just 2,392 in the six months from January to June 2020 despite 30,000 new packages being added to the system during the same time.

The latest Home Care Packages Program data report for the 4th Quarter 2019-20 shows there were 102,081 Australians waiting for a home care package at their approved level as of 30 June 2020 – down from 104,473 on 31 December last year.

The numbers are still an improvement on the less than 1,000 fall in the number of people waiting in the March quarter.

3,000 new packages a week

As of 30 June 2020, 155,625 people had access to a package, a 2.4% (3,667) increase since 31 March 2020 (151,958) and a 24.4% increase (30,506) since 30 June 2019 (125,119).

Of these, 14,673 were new entrants receiving a package for the first time.

However, over half of those waiting for their approved package (61,337) had not yet been offered a package, although 97% had approval for support through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

The number of people with approval for a Level 4 package who were yet to receive it also fell 34% (3,785) from 30 June 2019 (11,120) to 30 June 2020 (7,335).

In total, there were 29,211 approvals for packages and 39,000 HCPs released in the June 2020 quarter – an average of 3,000 per week.

Minister Colbeck says queue is going down

Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, has defended the low drop in the numbers, telling The Australian that the latest information from the Department of Health was that waiting list numbers were continuing to decline.

“The latest published home care data does not reflect the 6,105 allocated as part of an investment announced in June which started being released in July 2020,” he said. “It also does not reflect the additional 23,000 home care packages made available under the 2020-21 budget that will start being released from November.”

These additional packages will increase the number of packages in the system from 155,625 on 20 June last year, to 185,597 by 30 June, 2021 – around 30,000 new packages.

Counsel Assisting argues list should be cleared over the next year

But the Counsel Assisting submissions to the Royal Commission last week made a recommendation for the queue to be cleared by December 2021 – just over 12 months away.

As we covered here, the Government announced another $1.6 billion to fund 23,000 new packages in its Budget earlier this month on top of the 6,000 announced in July – but said it would wait for the Royal Commission’s recommendations and the 2021 Budget to make any major reforms to the system.

Doing some back-of-envelope calculations based on this recent announcement, around $7 billion will be needed just to clear the waiting list – without accounting for new approvals.

Will the Government be prepared to stump up the cash?

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