Last-minute review offers hope for seniors on Federal Government in-home care packages

May 22, 2015

Seniors set to lose out when their federally funded in-home care schemes are changed in July have received a last-minute reprieve.

 

About 60,000 seniors currently receive government-funded in-home care.

From July 1, seniors on Home Care Packages are set to have their cover changed to the Consumer Directed Care (CDC) scheme.

 

It is estimated more than 10,000 seniors will have care shortfalls when they make the switch in less than six weeks, with clients fearful they will have to fork out more cash to pay for services or move to a nursing home.

 

The Federal Department of Social Services acknowledged the gap last month in a noticeit sent to care providers advising some care needs might not be met under the change, but had refused to reconsider its stance.

 

However, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has acknowledged there is a problem, and has vowed those set to lose out in the changeover will be able to have their cases reviewed.

 

"Where individual consumers have concerns, we want to work through those with them," Senator Fifield said.

"[There will] be a team of staff who will work through very closely with individuals on a case-by-case basis."

Do you know more about this story? Email investigations@abc.net.au

 

'We're still in an emergency situation': stroke victim

Margot Harker, 68, was among those to welcome the news.

 

Since suffering a stroke four years ago, Ms Harker has relied on care workers who visit her home in Canberra twice a day.

 

Under the switch to CDC, the cost to maintain her level of care would cost her an additional $2185.86 per month, which she could not afford on her aged pension income of $811 a fortnight.

 

Senator Mitch Fifield has not provided a timeline for the case reviews. ABC
 

After speaking with the ABC earlier this month, her care provider offered to reduce some of the fees, but not enough to make her package affordable.

 

An online petition she launched to lobby the Department of Social Services has gained more than 23,000 supporters.

 

She said she was thrilled to hear her situation would be reviewed.

"I sort of felt this big rush of relief," she said.

 

"It sounds like the beginning of a really good response."

 

However, Ms Harker said she was wary of how long the review would take.

 

"What happens after the first of July," she asked.

 

"Is this review going to be set up very quickly?

 

"I still feel we're in an emergency situation."

 

Department vague on review details

 

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association senior advisor Charmaine Crowe said she was pleased Senator Fifield seemed ready to act.

 

"We're very pleased that the Minister has listened to those people out there who have been saying, 'Hey, I can't survive if my care is cut in half'," she said.

 

Ms Crowe said it was vital the Government did all it could to make sure there was enough care for high-need clients.

 

"Otherwise, they'll just have to move into a nursing home, which isn't really acceptable," she said.

 

During a visit to a care provider in Melbourne's outer east, Senator Fifield drew attention to measures in this year's budget aimed at making it easier for clients with CDC packages to shop around.

 

He said $73.7 million would be made available to allow consumers to carry the value of their packages from one provider to another, with a view to creating more competition in the industry.

The changes will come into effect in 2017.

 

However, Senator Fifield had no further details on how the reviews for those who were unhappy with their CDC packages would work, or how many cases would be reviewed.

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