Bureaucratic imagination soars in Budget 2021: home care packages

Article published 12 May 2021

Bureaucratic imagination soars in Budget 2021: home care packages

With the Budget announcement of 80,000 packages, the number of inactive ‘allocated’ packages has now risen to 102,102 packages. To fund these additional 80,000 packages, the Government has allocated $6.5 billion over four years where $7.9 billion is required to get rid of the home care packages waiting list. That’s a shortfall of $1.4 billion.

These 80,000 packages simply top up 22,000 unused packages and their release happens in mysterious ways and perhaps not at all.

The September 2020 quarter data report for the Home Care Packages Program says that the total number of ‘allocated’ Home Care Packages is 195,597, of which 173,495 are ‘active’, of which 14,156 have not (yet) been accepted, leaving 159,339 active ‘active’ packages.

The difference between 195,597 ‘allocated’ packages and 173,495 ‘active’ Packages is 22,102. The data report omits to say why, in the face of a waiting list of 96,859, these packages haven’t been activated.

The data report omits a second bit of information: how many level 1, 2, 3 and 4 packages there are in that 22,102 number of ‘allocated’ packages.

When the Government announces new packages, it announces a Budget appropriation. In the 2019-2020 Budget, for example, it announced 10,000 new packages with an appropriation of $282.4 million over 5 years from 2018-2019.

$282.4 million cannot pay for 10,000 new packages over five years.

The lowest level of care package is level 1, with an annual subsidy of $8,900, so $282.4 million over five years can pay for 6,346 level 1 packages. Alternatively, it can pay for 1,088 level 4 packages, which get an annual subsidy of $51,900.

Clearly, the truthfulness of the announcement of “the release of an additional 10,000 home care packages across the four package levels” depends very much on the timing of the release of each of those 10,000 packages.

For example, if these 10,000 packages were ‘activated’ on the first day of the last month of the forward estimates, $282.4 million can easily pay for 10,000 packages, even if these 10,000 packages are all at level 4.

If, on the other hand, these 10,000 packages were released on the first day of the first month of the forward estimates, $282.4 million is nowhere near enough.

Going by the spare (inactive) 22,102 ‘allocated’ packages in the system, the timing for these 10,000 packages has indeed been significantly delayed. In fact, they have not yet been released.

Neither have another 12,102 packages announced previous to the 2019-2020 budget.

As mentioned at the top of this story, with the Budget announcement of 80,000 packages, the number of inactive ‘allocated’ packages has now risen to 102,102 packages.

If the home care packages program performs as it usually does, the home care packages waiting list will still be there for many, many years.

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