CPSA appreciates that aged care reform across residential care and home care following the Aged Care Royal Commission is a difficult undertaking at a time of staff shortages and wage pressure. The Government has provisioned well for the reforms under way with a more than $5 billion a year increase in the aged care budget.
Why the delay?
However, the start of the new Support at Home Program (also referred to as the In-Home Aged Care Program in past CPSA News) will be put off for another year “in response to feedback and to allow time to further refine the design”, as Budget Paper No. 2 has it.
The “feedback” would be from CHSP providers protesting that they have no information to go on to get ready for the merger between the Home Care Packages Program (HCPP) and the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).
Almost casually, Budget Paper No. 2 informed us there would be another year’s delay. So, the new system will start on 1 July 2025. For now, because there have been so many delays, it’s certainly possible that it will be pushed out by another year.
What’s the real reason?
Looking at the Budget measures relating to HCPP and CHSP, the additional time is going to be used not so much for further refining the new Support at Home Program as for starting the development of key components from scratch.
From 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2024, the Department of Health and Aged Care is going to design and build the computer systems necessary to enable the new Support at Home Program. Clearly this is a very vital component enabling providers to invoice the Department and for the Department to pay providers. But right now it seems, it’s no more than a glimmer in a computer engineer’s eye.
From 1 July 2023 to 30 June 2025, the Department will “establish a single aged care assessment system”. Again, the single aged care assessment system to which the Department’s October 2022 discussion paper refers turns out to be no more than a concept.
From 1 July 2024 (the date on which the whole Support at Home Program was supposed to start), the Department is going to run a trial to test products and services for the equipment program. This equipment program may or may not have been designed, but it’s certainly not at the point where it can be tested. That point is now just over a year away.
Client contributions to be reviewed
Budget night was also used to announce that a “new Aged Care Taskforce will be established to review aged care funding arrangements and develop options to make the system fair and equitable for all Australians”.
Because another very important component of the new Support at Home Program will be client contributions to the cost of the care they receive. It’s another thing that needs to be further refined.
It comes as no surprise that merging the Home Care Package Program (HCPP) (250,000 clients) with the entry-level Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) (more than 800,000 clients) will once again be postponed by one year.
What’s going to happen?
It now seems likely that the merger will not happen in the current term of government.
The Department is rightly criticised for not providing detail of what it was planning for its long-time-coming Support at Home Program. It now seems that the detail was simply not available even to itself. It seems that the Government does not know how it is going to squeeze the larger CHSP into the corset of the much smaller HCPP.