Home care waiting times: getting better or worse?

Article published 11 December 2023

Subscribe to CPSA news

A former aged care minister said that waiting times for the Home Care Packages Program have blown out since he was in charge. Have they?

ON 17 November, the previous government’s aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, made a statement about the Home Care Packages Program (HCPP) in the Senate. He claimed that after the 2019 election, when he was appointed aged care minister, the waiting time for a Home Care Package (HCP) was 12 to 24 months.

This is true with a couple of provisos. First proviso, during the whole of 2019, the waiting time was less than 30 days for the Lowest HCP level, level 1. Second proviso, the HCPP data reports say it was 12 months or more for HCP levels 2, 3 and 4. Evidence presented at the Aged Care Royal Commission showed that people were often waiting for more than 24 months.

Senator Colbeck then said, in his statement: “By the time we got to the May election last year, the waiting time for anyone with a high-needs package was down from 12 to 24 months to less than 30 days”.

This is untrue. On the date of the election, 21 May 2022 (so in the June 2022 quarter), waiting times were 3 to 6 months for all HCP levels, including the high-needs levels 3 and 4. This is much better than the more than 12 months waiting time Senator Colbeck found when he became aged care minister, but less than 30 days? No.

Then the Senator’s statement covers what happened post-election: “By the last quarter of 2022, the waiting time for a package at any level was 30 to 90 days”.

This is true. All HCP levels had a 1 to 3 months’ waiting period.

Then the Senator gets to his main point. “Can you imagine my dismay to see that this year the waiting time for a home-care package at any level has blown out to 90 to 180 days? It has gone from 30 to 90 days to 90 to 180 days at all levels September quarter 2023].”

Unfortunately, the Senator again misquotes the numbers. Only the waiting times for levels 2 and 3 have deteriorated: for level 2 it was 1 to 3 months and at the end of the September 2023 quarter it was 6 to 9 months. The level 3 waiting time blew out even more, to between 6 and 9 months. But the level 1 waiting time improved to less than 30 days, and the level 4 waiting time stayed at the same level.

There’s certainly deterioration in HCPP waiting times, but not as bad as Senator Colbeck makes out.

“Where is the outrage?”, concluded the Senator his statement in the Senate. “Where are the questions that were asked of me about people dying on waiting lists? Where are the inquiries from the media, who have said nothing?”

The Senator, who remembers the rough treatment he received when he was aged care minister, has a point, although not as valid a point as he thinks.

The real outrage is that people who need more home care than things like a bit of house cleaning have to wait more than 30 days. The real outrage is that it has always been like that since the Home Care Package Program started in 2017.

(Senator’s Colbeck’s statement can be found on page 44 of the Senate Hansard for 17 November 2023.)

Please take a quick (2 questions) survey on home care waiting times: click here.

For more information please email our media contact at media@cpsa.org.au

Stay up to date with CPSA news and media releases

Our regular email newsletter provides valuable insights and information on topics such as pension entitlements, healthcare, government policies, and more.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.