Speeches

Home Care Packages

March 02, 2020

I move that this House: 

(1) notes that:
  (a) there are 120,000 older Australians waiting for their approved home care package, with many waiting more than two years for the care they have been approved for;
  (b) more than 16,000 older Australians died waiting for their approved home care package they were assessed for in 2017-18—sadly, that was around 300 older Australians that died each week in that year waiting for care;
  (c) there are around 14,000 older Australians who entered residential aged care prematurely because they couldn't get the care they were assessed and approved for in 2017-18—sadly, that was around 200 older Australians each week having no other choice but to enter residential aged care; and
  (d) the number of older Australians waiting for home care grew from 88,000 to 120,000 since 2017; and


(2) condemns the Government for its inadequate response to the Royal Commission's interim report and not providing the home care older Australians need.


When Meryl from Glenbrook put up a post on Facebook looking for suggestions on garden help for her ageing parents, she didn't expect the torrent of comments about delays for aged-care in-home help that it triggered. Meryl's parents in Blaxland have been assessed for an aged-care in-home package. They were approved for a low level of care but have found out that, even though they don't need a lot of support, they could be on a waiting list for three years before a package becomes available. So she's trying to source private help that will ensure her parents are able to maintain their independence with dignity. Of course, they realise there are many others with much, much greater needs, but, as Meryl said to me, 'You don't know about these things until it suddenly hits your family.'


Sadly, it's hitting lots of families. We don't have the December quarter figures yet for some reason, but the most recent ones showed that there are 120,000 older Australians waiting for their approved home care package, with many waiting more than two years for the care that they have been approved for. This has occurred on this government's watch. This isn't anybody else's legacy. It's not anyone else's fault. It's the direct result of this government's failure to have any plan for aged care to support people in a practical way and fund it appropriately.


The number of older Australians waiting for in-home care has grown from 88,000 to 120,000 since 2017. More than 16,000 older Australians have died waiting for their approved home care package that they were assessed for in 2017-18. I want you to think about those numbers; that's around 300 older Australians who died each week over that period waiting for care, having been told, 'Yes, you should have some help,' but then just left waiting.
There are also the 14,000 older Australians who had no choice but to enter residential aged care prematurely because they couldn't get, in their home, care that they were assessed and approved for in 2017-18. Sadly, that's around 200 older Australians each week having no other choice but to enter residential aged care. These are huge numbers, and it's an indictment on the funding and the packages that are available. They're damning numbers.


The Prime Minister claims that there has been:
… unprecedented aged care improvements to help ensure older Australians receive the care they want and deserve, where and when they need it.

Well, his words just do not match the facts on the ground. It feels more like the Prime Minister has sacrificed everything to the surplus dragon, pre-emptively claiming victory and squeezing the funds out of every vulnerable group he can, including older people who want to stay in their homes.
Alan, from Blaxland, has also been approved for low-level support—enough to make a difference for him and his wife, for whom he's the primary carer. But now he faces a long wait for the service to be delivered. To add insult to injury, the funding might eventually become available but the providers in our region don't have the capacity to deliver it. That's another issue—the workforce. This government has failed to invest in the people who will deliver services. Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury residents on the edge of Sydney have low access to services based locally. Those that are local tend to be snapped up fast, so people are all too often reliant on services outside the area, which have to agree to travel to us.


Now the government is pushing to change the way it pays the providers of in-home care. Instead of paying upfront and allowing them to draw down on that, it wants to pay them after the service has been delivered—a complete reverse of model. It doesn't sound like much of a switch but it makes a massive difference to cash flow, especially for the smaller services; it puts them at a real cash-flow risk. It's just the opposite of what our local economy needs as we're trying to recover from bushfires and with the threat of the coronavirus ahead of us, on top of what was already a pretty flat economic situation.


It also comes on the back of attempts to privatise ACAT assessments for in-home aged care. Those assessments are done by the states. From the feedback I receive, that is pretty much the only step of the process that goes smoothly. It's timely, it's respectful and it meets the needs of older people and their families. After hitting a brick wall of disapproval, I am relieved that the government has backed down from that plan. Fancy the royal commissioner feeling the need to refute the claim that he had somehow endorsed the move. Clearly, the government isn't really interested in the royal commission findings or what's best for elderly people. Its response is inadequate and it has put the budget first. (Time expired)


The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Wallace ): Is there a seconder for the motion?
Mr Thistlethwaite: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

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