Australia's Aged Care Service & Funding Model: The Basics
© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
To address recent research revealing a stark lack of awareness in the general population of aged care in Australia, I'll give a general overview of the Australian aged care model and its funding.
Aged Care - The Domain of the Commonwealth Government
The Commonwealth Government is responsible for the delivery of subsidised aged care in Australia. If you are seeking government-funded aged care, you go to the Commonwealth Government's My Aged Care website for information on how to access care.
Commonwealth-Government Approved Providers Deliver the Care
Commonwealth Government-funded aged care is provided by Commonwealth Government approved providers. The care is all outsourced to approved providers.
Becoming an approved provider of aged care services involves meeting strict quality and service requirements set out in The Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth), and being accredited and monitored by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
You will be familiar with the names of approved providers such as Anglicare, BUPA, Uniting Care, to name just a few of the more than 3,000 approved aged care providers across the country. These approved providers include private (for profit) businesses, community organisations and charities.
The Australian Government pays these service providers to deliver aged care. It does this through subsidies and supplements, capital grants and funding through aged care programs.
The Three Categories of Care
The funded care can be divided up into three categories: help at home; short-term care; and residential aged care facilities ('nursing homes').
Latest figures show that of the more than 1.2 million Australians who are receiving aged care services, the vast majority (77%) of aged care services are provided to people in their home or a community based setting such as the local Senior Citizens' Centre.
Help at Home
Approved service providers deliver help at home through two Commonwealth Government programmes, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) and the Home Care Packages Program.
The CHSP is the largest programme of care, helping around 783,000 Australians (2017–18) remain living independently at home and in the community. It provides subsidised help for: help around the home, transport, meals, outings and personal care.
As a person's care needs grow, they are transferred to the Home Care Packages Programme. This is a tailored, coordinated package of care services to help people remain at home. There are four levels of care packages. It is the fastest growing programme supporting around 116,800 Australians (2017-2018), up 16% on the prior year.
This demand is reflected in the wait times for these packages. For example, at 31 December 2018, there were around 123,000 waiting for a package at their approved level, of which nearly 54,000 had been offered a lower-level package. The typical wait time for someone to enter a Level 1 package (the lowest level) was 3–6 months, but for all other levels was more than 12 months (Department of Health 2019). At this time, there is around 109,000 people on the wait list for HomeCare packages.
Many families decide to commence and pay for private ‘fee for service’ homecare given the long waitlists and the need for support and care.
If the care need is short term, the Commonwealth Government offers three programmes of care: short-term restorative care to help with everyday tasks; transition care to help with the recovery from a hospital stay; and respite care to give carers a break. A smaller number of Australians call on these forms of care each year.
Residential Aged Care Facilities
When a person is no longer able to remain living in their home, the Commonwealth Government offers care in Commonwealth approved residential aged care facilities.
Residential care is the second largest program of care, supporting around 270,500 Australian (2017-2018), including nearly 62,000 people who received temporary, respite care.
What Do You Pay as the Consumer?
For all these types of care, you’re expected to contribute to the cost of your care if you can afford to. An assessment of your income and assets will be undertaken to establish what you can afford to contribute.
The cost of the care depends on the type of care support and the fees set by the approved aged care provider. For example, each residential aged care facility sets its own prices, within a prescribed limit, and costs vary. How much you will have to pay depends on the place you choose and an assessment of your income and assets. If you are on a pension, you are expected to pay a proportion of your pension (as high as 85%) for your care and accommodation expenses.
Still Unsure of Where to Start Looking for the Right Care?
The care sector is a difficult one to navigate. This is why I set up DR Care Solutions. I represent you as an independent Advocate in making sure you set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.
We assist ageing clients to plan their ‘post retirement’ years to ensure they have their wants and wishes heard and carried through.
If you seek care solutions or would like to discuss options, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.