Labor defers start of new Support at Home Program to mid-2024

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In the first major change to the previous Government’s ambitious five-year timeline for the Royal Commission’s aged care reforms, the Labor Government announced late last night that it would move the start date for the new home care program from 1 July 2023 to July 2024.

A new Support at Home Program to start in mid-2024 was a key recommendation from the Aged Care Royal Commission, and was brought forward to mid-2023 by the Coalition in its response to the Royal Commission’s Final Report.

However, there has been little detail released on the Program so far, and widespread concern from operators about how it will be successfully implemented.

Dr Nick Hartland, the Department of Health and Aged Care’s First Assistant Secretary for Home & Residential Care, told the Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA)’s webinar on the transition to the new program held last week that the Department had heard common feedback.

“The primary feedback that we got really was around flexibility for consumers and support plans and providers through the funding mechanisms,” he stated.

“I think that was consistent feedback, that consumers’ needs change quite quickly so there’s a need to be able to service types and be flexible across how funding’s used… We need to work through what that would mean for the model if it was to go ahead, and where government wants to take that.”

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells has told The Australian that the mid-2023 deadline was too hard to meet and Labor would push back the program to the original start time.

“In the past two months, I’ve heard repeatedly that the Morrison Government’s rush job on home care puts people who are receiving in-home care at risk,” she said.

“Most people want to stay in their homes for as long as possible, so it’s imperative that reforms to in-home aged care bring genuine improvements for older Australians in the long and short term.”

The Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision.

“The new start date for the Support at Home Program aligns well with the original Aged Care Royal Commission recommendation and will free up providers to focus on the current challenges of the Winter Omicron wave,” said ACCPA Interim CEO Paul Sadler.

“We look forward to working with the Federal Government to co-design and pilot a system of in-home care and support for older Australians that replaces existing home care programs with a better, integrated model that is fit for the future.”

It is now expected that the Government will engage in further consultation with the sector and end users on what the new system will look like – watch this space.