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Additional Home Care Packages and Royal Commission extension announced

In a midday press conference on 8 July, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced an additional 6,105 Home Care Packages for older Australians as well as an extension for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced additional packages which will be evenly split between Level 1, 2 and 3 Home Care Packages. [Source: Scott Morrison facebook page]
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced additional packages which will be evenly split between Level 1, 2 and 3 Home Care Packages. [Source: Scott Morrison facebook page]

The additional home care packages will be evenly split between Level 1, 2 and 3 Home Care Packages.

Minister for Aged Care and Seniors Australians, Richard Colbeck, also announced that the Royal Commission has been successful in their request for an extension.

The Commission has received a three and a half month extension, with the Final Report now due on 26 February, 2021.

PM Morrison says these announcements are a result of the current COVID-19 challenges and the resulting recession.

"The needs out across the country are just as present as they were before, and one of the most significant areas of need that we have been addressing as a Government since the 2018/19 budget in particular, has been the challenges of in home aged care," says PM Morrison. 

"It was only last year after the receipt of the Interim Report of the Aged Care Royal Commission that we immediately responded to the immediate request that there be additional places provided for in home aged care and we immediately moved to put an additional 10,000 places.

"I am announcing with Minister [Richard Colbeck] an additional 6,100 in home aged care places which will bring to an additional 50,000 places at a cost of some $3 million dollars that we have announced since the 18/19 budget.

"...It is about ensuring that Australians as they age have greater choices, their families have greater choices… And we will guarantee the essential services Australians rely on, and this is a very good example of that, meeting the needs of our elderly and the in home aged care places they need, and there will be more."

Minister Colbeck says the additional Home Care Packages will commence immediately and that this shows the commitment of the Government to providing choice for older Australians as they age, especially if they choose to stay safe and live at home.

Besides the Royal Commission extension, Minister Colbeck also revealed that Commissioner Tony Pagone QC will be the official Chair of the Royal Commission, instead of the Acting-Chair.

The Commission has been on hiatus for the last months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and only recently announced it will be returning in mid-July.

Peak body for non-profit aged care providers, Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), has welcomed the new Home Care Packages as well as the necessary extension for the Royal Commission.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ACSA, Patricia Sparrow, says there hasn't been time or the capacity to investigate solutions to challenges within home care services, including reform around appropriate delivery of care and support for older Australians, as well as how Australia pays for these services.

Ms Sparrow adds that the Royal Commission is currently investigating funding model issues for home care, so it is imperative that the Commission received this extension so they continue the serious conversation.

"But none of this means that urgent action isn’t required. We’re yet to see a full response to the sector’s united call for a COVID-19 response package and the fact that 60 percent of all residential care facilities are operating at a loss," explains Ms Sparrow.

"On top of this, protecting vulnerable older Australians during the pandemic has led to significant cost increases. For some providers, the additional spending on cleaning, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and staff has been estimated at as much as $1 million.

"With more than 100,000 people still waiting, the injection of another 6,105 home care packages is fantastic. It also shows the government is aware that home care is one of the major issues to address for the future of the entire system. 

"We need to make sure we have enough services available to meet the needs of older people who want to stay in their own home for as long as possible."

Industry peak body, Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), also welcomed the additional packages, however, they have raised concerns around the fact that this package boost won't be bolstering Level 4 Home Care Packages.

CEO of LASA, Sean Rooney, says there needs to be a detail strategy to reduce the current Home Care Package wait time to three months.

"We recognise the Government’s commitment of 50,000 new Home Care Packages since 2018, but Level 4 packages are also critically important,” says Mr Rooney.

"The queue for approved packages remains concerning and some of the wait times for high-level home care are over a year and even up to two years. There is an increasing demand for home care and there must be significant continuing investment to reduce the national waitlist and meet the needs of older Australians.

"We are committed to working with the Government to map out a detailed strategy to reduce the HCP wait to three months."

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