What is a Home Care Package?
The Australian Government has recognised that nearly 90% of older Australians want to remain living in their own homes. To assist people to do this, they are providing all eligible people aged over 65 access to subsidised home care packages to help with daily living tasks that may be getting too difficult to manage alone. Home Care packages are intended to provide long-term support.
If you need help after a hospital stay or illness, the Commonwealth Support Program (CHSP) might be a better option for you, so ask your GP or hospital staff for more information.
There are four levels of support packages for different levels of support and each level is funded differently.
- Level 1 – Basic care needs (approximately 2 hours per week)
- Level 2 – Low-level care needs (approximately 3-4 hours per week)
- Level 3 – Intermediate care needs (approximately 7 hours per week)
- Level 4 – High care needs (approximately 10 hours per week)
You are able to buy hours of care or other support services that best suit your individual needs and actual hours can differ according to individual plans.
How can I get a Home Care Package?
Everyone aged over the age of 65 who has a Medicare Card can apply for a Home Care Package by contacting the My Aged Care department and registering. If you can’t apply yourself, you can ask family or friends to apply for you, while your GP can also help with this. There can be a wait list for services, depending on what level of support you need and how many packages are available when you apply. You will need to be assessed by a member of the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). They will visit you and ask questions to determine the level of care you need to help you stay at home. There can be a wait time of up to six weeks for the evaluation and you can have a family member or friend at the meeting if you prefer.
Why do I have to wait once I am approved?
The Federal Government provide a limited number of subsidised packages across Australia. There is a prioritisation system in place where people assessed as needing greater support will have quicker access to available packages. Sometimes you will be offered a lower level package until a more desired one becomes available.
What is the difference between approved and assigned?
Once you have had your ACAT assessment, you will be sent a letter informing you of the outcome including your package approval. Once a package becomes available, you will receive another letter and can find a provider to start receiving support.
How much does it cost?
There is no cost to apply for a Home Care Package, you just need to register with My Gov and there is no cost for the ACAT assessment either.
The packages are income-tested through Centrelink and you will be required to pay an amount towards your package based on your income. The government subsidy for your package is reduced by the same amount you pay towards it. All of the money in your package is put toward your care and service providers are not involved in determining these fees.
Service providers can charge a basic daily fee for your care, which is added to your care package and can be used to increase your services. The government has set this fee at 17.5% of the full Aged Care pension, which is approximately about $10.10 per day currently. Nobody can be refused help if they’re unable to pay. Each case should be assessed individually with your chosen service provider before you sign your agreement. You should be able to negotiate reduced fees if you can prove you would be disadvantaged by paying the full amount.
How is what care I receive decided?
Aged Care at Home has gone through some massive changes in the past few years. The introduction of Consumer Directed Care (CDC) means you are in control of what your package of care looks like. You should have discussions with your family and service provider to create a care plan that reflects your needs and goals. Packages are no longer allocated to service providers as they were previously and individual packages belong to each individual receiving the services. If you aren’t being properly consulted, you should contact your provider.
What are the hidden costs?
Home Care providers do not receive separate funding for their operating administration costs, therefore, some of your funds will be used to pay for such expenses. These costs should be transparent and included in your service agreement. You should expect regular account updates, especially if your needs change, so you know exactly what you are paying for. Case managers should be available for home visit assessments and reviews, developing care plans, as well as managing phone correspondence and your roster. Some service providers will charge membership and exit fees, which should also be added to your service agreement and you should ask about what they include before you sign anything. Your provider is accountable to you and the Commonwealth Government to ensure your funds are managed appropriately
Is there anything not included?
You can’t use your Home Care package to pay for everyday things that aren’t specific to your support needs like:
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Day-to-day bills (electricity, gas etc.)
- Expenses already covered by Medicare or Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
- Any programs already funded or subsidised by the Australian Government
What if I am not happy with my service provider?
As the Home Care packages now belong to individuals and not service providers, you have the right to change providers if you’re unhappy with your package. You should always try to negotiate an acceptable outcome with your current provider first before changing. But if you’re still unsatisfied, you must state your intention to change providers in writing (usually 28 days’ notice is required) and all remaining funds in your package must be transferred to your new provider. You can also contact the following places for relevant advice:
- The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner
- Older Persons Advocacy network
- The Commonwealth Ombudsman
- Aged Rights Advocacy Service