Julie Collins MP.
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1 month ago
Julie Collins MP
Imagine you go to the letterbox and collect your mail. There’s a letter addressed to your wife, who passed away 12 months ago. At the time she was approved and waiting for a level four home care package.
You open the letter and read the first paragraph. It’s confronting and confusing at the same time.
“You have moved up in the queue and I expect you will be assigned a home care package in about three months. This package may be lower than the level you are approved for, but it lets you start to receive some home care services.”
I can’t imagine anything crueller than having to read this letter after you have lost a loved one. A loved one who, at their most vulnerable, wanted to receive care at home, unable to access the care for which they were approved.
Our thoughts go to anyone who has received one of these letters. It is distressing and it should not happen.
We know the Home Care Package Program is not working because there are more than 129,000 older Australians waiting for their approved package. More than 75,000 older Australians on the list are receiving no package at all.
According to the Department of Health the average wait time for a level four package is more than 24 months.
Those waiting months and years tell me every day how hard it is to cope and how difficult it is to manage on their own without family and friends.
The home care package wait list, or the prioritisation queue, is not based on how unwell you are or how old you are. Applicants are added to the bottom of the list, even if they are in their 90s or have a terminal illness.
It is sad to know that more than 16,000 older Australians on an interim package have died waiting for their fully approved package. More than 14,000 enter care facilities because they are unable to get access to their care package.
Older Australians are clearly suffering. Their families have to be the carers, some give up their jobs to look after their parents because they are unable to access the level of care needed.
Figures in the most recent Government report show there are more people on the home care package wait list than there are packages in the system.
When the Government first published the home care package data in 2017 there were 88,000 older Australians on the list. Two years later there are more than 129,000 older Australians waiting. Most will wait for years.
Labor has called on successive Liberal governments to fix the home care package crisis. We know Australia has a growing ageing population and more Australians are choosing to age in their own home.
A collective push has made the Government act. Over the past 18 months it has, under political pressure, put a further 40,000 home care packages into the system.
Has it helped? Yes it has but the frustration is that the Government had to be pushed to act and many of the packages released are lower levels and not the higher levels needed. It is also a zero sum game.
These 40,000 packages are not enough to keep up with the demand for care. As the 40,000 packages are put into the system the wait list continues to grow — it has not slowed down.
Can interventions be made now? Yes. About a year ago then Minister for Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, said the Government would need to consider other interventions to reduce the wait list.
Have any interventions been made since then? Sadly, no.
While the Royal Commission into Aged Care is allowing people to have their say, the Government cannot wait for it to hand down its report. The Morrison Government must turn its attention to fixing the home care package program now.
I walk a mile in someone else’s shoes every day to understand the helplessness some people feel but cannot imagine what it would be like to receive one of those letters addressed to a deceased loved one. It is heartbreaking.
That is why Labor will continue to fight on behalf of older Australians — it is the right thing to do.
Health and Aged Care