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Seniors need help accessing home care: peaks

Consumers and community care providers say government needs to ramp up information and support for navigating home care amid concerns packages aren’t being taken up.

The Department of Health last week said that 22,000 home care packages have been allocated across the country since the new system was introduced on 27 February.

But many community care providers report a significant drop in the volume of new clients coming through to them.

Some stakeholders are questioning if 56 days for seniors to take up their allocated package is too long. Others believe they may be confused by the different letters they receive, arguing more direct contact and support is needed.

Amidst mounting disquiet over the lack of transparency around the allocation of packages and the new national queue, the department also confirmed last week it will provide detailed quarterly reports from July.

Information campaign needed

Council on the Ageing Australia chief Ian Yates said the National Aged Care Alliance had been arguing for a comprehensive and ongoing consumer information campaign for several years.

“It’s a baffling fact that government has not launched a campaign that has been in the wings for ages,” Mr Yates told Community Care Review.

“That said, there are a range of brochures and flyers provided direct to consumers which are helpful.

“The letters have been confusing to some consumers and we understand they are being revised,” he said.

Pat Sparrow, chief executive of Aged and Community Services Australia, said that having informed and supported consumers was essential.

“NACA has been doing some work on a consumer support platform and it will be good for government to consider that and how it can strengthen that area,” Ms Sparrow told Community Care Review.

“My Aged Care in and of itself isn’t going to do all those things and we need to look at how we can strengthen it.”

The 56-day period

Ms Sparrow said the current timeframe for a consumer to take up their assigned package – 56 days with an optional 28-day extension – potentially needs to be shorter.

“It’s important people have time to consider their options but we also need to ensure packages get to the people who need them, more quickly than they are at the moment. I think that’s having an impact on the allocation process,” she said.

Mr Yates said it was too early to tell whether the 56-day period should be reviewed.

“Very early feedback does not indicate it’s a major issue. There were quite different views about this when it was agreed.

“It may be that we need a mechanism for consumers to ‘park’ their entitlement to a package, leaving it in the priority line but ‘inactive’ – for a maximum period – and then be able to activate it when they are ready.”

Need for detailed data

Mr Yates said COTA looked forward to data becoming robust enough that it will be possible for consumers to be confidently advised how long they’re likely to wait for the package at the level which they have been approved.

Ms Sparrow said transparency is “absolutely key” to the success of the implementation and of the prioritisation process.

“We need transparency on data so we need to know how many people are waiting, how long they’re waiting, when packages are allocated, and where they’re going,” she said.

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