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Confusion reigns over new aged care queue

The Department of Health has said 22,000 home care packages have been released under the new system and it will release detailed data in July on how it’s performing.

Bonnie Carter says her 84-year-old mother has been waiting for a high-level home care package for more than 70 days.

Ms Carter says that since an Aged Care Assessment Team assessed her mother as needing the package, “nothing has happened.”

“There’s been no contact other than me calling My Aged Care several times to see where she is in the queue and how long she might have to wait,” Ms Carter says.

“Apparently no one can tell anyone anything about this mythical queue until the end of this year,” she adds.

Under the latest aged care reforms that came into force on 27 February, the Department of Health has created a new centralised process for allocating home care packages directly to consumers.

As part of the new system a “national prioritisation process” has been created: after a senior is assessed as needing a home care package they join a new national queue where they wait to be allocated a package.

How long a senior waits on the queue is based on various factors – such as their level of need, how long they’ve been waiting and how quickly a package at their level of need becomes available (the number of packages is increasing but remains capped by government).

It’s a complex new system and, in the absence of transparency around how it is working, confusion is mounting among providers and consumers.

System is working, says department

This week the department said that 22,000 home care packages have been allocated across the country since the changes – evidence, it said, that the new system “is working”.

But many providers report a significant drop in the volume of clients coming through to them. Where are the 22,000 seniors who have these packages, they ask.

Many point to the likely implications of the 56-day rule.

Under the new system, once a senior receives a letter from the department to say they’ve been assigned a home care package, the older person has 56 days to find a provider and start receiving services.

Within that period they also receive a reminder letter (after 35 days) if the system identifies they haven’t yet taken up their package.

Sector stakeholders are privately wondering if 56 days is too long. Some say they initially suggested to the department that letters wouldn’t cut it – the My Aged Care contact centre should be following up with calls, for example, to more actively manage the process.

Others believe seniors may be confused by the different letters they receive (one to say they’ve been approved for a package, the next to say they’ve been assigned a package) and argue government needs to spend more on consumer support.

The department itself says a lack of seniors coming through the system is likely more to do with the lengthy time they have to avail of a package, rather than issues with the new process.

“The expectation is the flow of clients through to providers should start to ramp up as we come through the 56 day period,” bureaucrats said in a webinar for providers this week.

Lack of data on packages, wait times

At the heart of the mounting disquiet in the sector is the department’s reluctance to release data on how the new system is performing.

The department has repeatedly said it cannot provide detailed data until “the second half of the year.”

Last week Australian Ageing Agenda emailed detailed questions to the department seeking data on the allocation and uptake of packages and wait times on the national queue.

We also asked: “If the department maintains that it cannot provide this data until ‘the second half of the year’ then can it explain why it is taking six months to gather this data.”

The department’s media adviser responded: “Oh dear – sorry you are so aggro – I’ll see what we can do.”

No further response was provided.

By stark contrast, the officials who appeared in this week’s webinar said they acknowledged the sector’s need for data and said quarterly reports would be provided from July.

They said the quarterly reports will include:

  • the number of approvals at each level
  • how many seniors are on the queue
  • how many are opting into services who had an older approval
  • how many are being assigned packages and what is their take-up behaviour
  • information on people leaving care
  • information on new providers coming into home care

The first report to be released in July will cover the period between 27 February and the end of June, the officials said.

While much of the focus has been on the new system for approving and assigning packages, some provider sources say assessment delays in some areas could also be a factor.

As AAA reported in March, assessment teams in just two states are meeting their targets for “high priority” referrals (read that story here).

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12 Responses to Confusion reigns over new aged care queue

  1. Jodeane Anderson May 19, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    Great article! I hope the department read it!

  2. Kate Lambert, CEO Daughterly Care May 19, 2017 at 1:06 pm #

    Fair crack of the whip. Its totally over the top to say “Confusion Reigns over new aged care queue.

    I strongly agree Elders are confused by the 2 letters one saying they are “approved” and the second saying they are “assigned”. Many Elders and their Adult Children make the mistake of thinking they have their package when the first letter arrives telling them they are “approved”.

    “Approved” sounds like you are ready to go, but it just means you have been added to the Waiting List.

    In our experience, many Elders and their busy Adult Children are putting the letter aside and leaving the decision until the last week or days before the deadline.

    We often receive calls when they are less than a week away from the 56 expiry deadline, so we advise them to ring My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 and ask for an extension of 28 days, just to take the pressure off.

    One new client was a day past the expiry date and My Aged Care had resumed the package, but with a phone call, the Elder got it back.

    Some spouses and adult children are highly stressed by their carer role and don’t understand what the “assigned” letter is telling them.

    Most people are not familiar with the word “assigned”. It needs to be more direct and say “YOUR MONEY IS NOW AVAILABLE for your Home Care Package to start now”.

    We have to remember the 22,000 new packages issued since 27 February 2017 are spread all around Australia, including areas where the backlog might have been longer.

    Also existing Old-School Approved Providers who commonly charge 35%+pa are likely to be quieter than in the past because Elders and their Adult children are choosing a New-Breed of Approved Provider (like Daughterly Care Community Services) which offers a lower fee.

    Many new organisations now have Approved Provider status so there is wider choice available for Elders.

    Older people have never known how long it would take to get their Home Care Package – I feel more confident now that it is being managed centrally.

    Kate Lambert
    Daughterly Care Community Services Ltd

  3. Greg May 19, 2017 at 1:25 pm #

    There are big problems with accessing home care services currently and it’s hard to get good information by ringing the My Aged Care number. There is also no clarity about what resources are available and when. These reforms have got a way to go before they deliver any worthwhile improvements and I fear people in the sector have placed too much neo liberal faith in them. Currently the ‘workaround’ is still king.

  4. Mike for his wife May 19, 2017 at 2:08 pm #

    Time waited to date
    231 days – queued from 29 September 2016

    Sydney NSW.

  5. M May 19, 2017 at 6:52 pm #

    Its not just about the 2 letters after approvals are given. The assessment process can be 2 stage-Home Support then comprehensive. Both those steps result in a letter and a copy of the support plan generated. Add in a trip to hospital and stint under TCP. Seniors are drowning in paperwork. None of which makes any sense to them. They end up with multiple people having visited them. God help you if english it not your first language. All this and they can end up with nothing for months on end.
    I work in local government service delivery in Victoria. We have 350 people on our wait list for support. No one wants to take up the Level 2 packages because of the fees. They ring in and say “I got this letter. I dont know what it means and what I’m supposed to do”. It’s extremely hard to explain why they should take a package.
    Dont even get me started on codes.

  6. Jo May 19, 2017 at 11:11 pm #

    I know people that have approvals from 2015 that still have no offer. They opted in, but it makes no difference. MAC need to acknowledge the reality – in our region the wait for assessment is up to 9 months! Then you join the queue- another 1-2 years! Hopeless.

  7. Priscilla May 20, 2017 at 8:35 am #

    My family is wondering how long is it ok to wait. 77 yr old dad with MND. Approved for high care package in Oct 2016. No package assigned yet (nearly 200 days). Major deterioration in interim. My Aged Care says they cannot give any information on how long. This is a terrible illness and the indignity of begging for a package that feels mythical adds to the burden. Reality is he may die before package is assigned – only blessing is that will be one less on the waiting list.

  8. Frustrated May 22, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    My dad received an ACAT assessment for a Level 4 HCP in March 2016. He was placed in the queue in December 2016. He is still waiting, despite numerous calls. Although he receives CHSP services, we have topped up with private services which is costing our family a lot of money.

  9. Karen May 23, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    Service providers are not receiving referrals even to keep status quo we had before the changes, let alone having potential to increase consumer numbers. Before the change if we had a vacancy for level 3 or 4 we were able to fill within hours , now it has been 3 weeks were 3 level 4 became vacant for us and we have not been referred or received requests for level 3 and 4 to fill them.

  10. Terri May 24, 2017 at 11:47 am #

    The National Priority Queue was only established on 27 February 2017.

    It clearly shows there is an issue with the system when people think that they have been in a queue since before this date.

    Up until that point a person with an assessment for a package had to source a provider with a package vacancy, join a provider’s waitlist, or even decide if they wanted to take up a package now that they are assessed.

    As a provider, we are seeing many referrals for multiple CHSP services, as people are clearly not being assigned a package.

  11. Adrienne May 24, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

    To Priscilla, – my recommendation is to contact the MND association in your state for equipment, they are likely able to help. And contact your local Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) to see whether the priority levels can change. That is awful, MND is unfortunately quite a quick and progressive disease.

  12. Gena Cavini May 24, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    Yes, but the Delegate Letter that goes to the client from the Aged Care Assessment Service after an aged care assessment has been conducted, states the client has not only been approved for a Package but that they have been added to the National Queue and what to expect.

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