What does aged care reform mean for you?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

More than a million people in Australia receive aged care services. This number is expected to rise to more than 3.5 million by 2050 due to better health care. To address this increasing need, the Australian government is reforming the aged care system. The aged care reform will see the system is moving towards consumer-directed care giving people more choice and care based on needs.

By 2022, the vision for Australia’s aged care system includes:

  • Be sustainable and affordable, long into the future;
  • Provide diverse and rewarding career options;
  • Encourage aged care businesses to invest and grow;
  • Offer greater choice and flexibility for consumers, and
  • Support people to stay at home, as part of their communities, for as long as possible.

To achieve this vision, aged care reform is being progressively implemented in three phases over 10 years.

Introduced in 2013, as part of phase one, the My Aged Care provides older people, their families and carers with information and services. This can be accessed via the My Aged Care website and a My Aged Care contact centre (1800 200 422) that operates from 8am – 8pm Monday to Friday and from 10am – 2pm Saturday, local time across Australia.

A number of improvements to the aged care system have already been made, including the introduction of income testing in Home Care Package, means testing in Residential Care, and new accommodation payment arrangements. This gives aged care residents a choice between paying a lump sum, daily contributions or a combined payment.

The second phase, which came into effect in 1 July 2015, include an expansion of My Aged Care to include client records to collect and share client information and national screening and assessment. New online portals will allow electronic referrals to assessors and service providers, and providers will now be able to manage the information displayed on service finders.

However, the most significant part of the second phase is the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP). In Victoria, this will combine the National Respite for Carers Program (NRCP), the Day Therapy Centres (DTC) Program and the Assistance with Care and Housing for the Aged (ACHA) Program. The jointly funded Commonwealth Home and Community Care (HACC) Program will continue to be administered by the State Government.

The CHSP is structured to support four main sub-programs.

  • Community and Home Support provides entry-level services to support older people to live independently at home and in the community, for example meals, domestic assistance and transport.
  • Care Relationships and Carer Support supports and maintains care relationships between older people and their carers.
  • Assistance with Care and Housing supports vulnerable clients to remain in the community through accessing appropriate, sustainable and affordable housing and linking them, where appropriate, to community care and other support services.
  • Service System Development supports the development of the community aged care service system in a way that meets the aims of the program and broader aged care system.

Also part of phase two, from 1 July 2015 the new My Aged Care Regional Assessment Service (RAS) will be responsible for providing assessment services for the home support needs of individuals. This new service will provide support for locating and accessing services based on the needs and preferences of older people. Assessment will be carried out face to face and include linking service and short-term case management support to vulnerable clients. Existing clients will not require assessment by My Aged Care to continue receiving the services they currently receive.

Another reform is the introduction of a fees policy designed to improve the equality and sustainability of the program. Older people will be asked to contribute to the cost of care, if they can afford to do so. The fees policy will include appropriate safeguards for those least able to afford the cost of their care and will be available for feedback this year.

Future changes to be implemented in the next phase of aged care reform will be developed in consultation with the aged care sector. The legislation mandates a five-year review be undertaken to look at the impact of reforms and future needs. Information about how you can get involved will be published on the Department of Social Services website.

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