The Minister for Aged Care has revealed the government may impose “funding penalties” on home care providers that don’t publish their pricing information.

Earlier this week, public health researcher, Dr Sarah Russell  of Research Matters, handed down her report on the home care sector to Minister Wyatt.

The report revealed a litany of serious problems in the home care sector, including long waiting lists, rorting, organisations with no experience caring for older people winning contracts, older people having to accept strangers into their homes, and support workers with limited and sometimes no training.

“Some providers charging high case management, administration costs”

The Aged Care Minister The Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP told HelloCare that home care operators that do not publish their fees online could face funding penalties.

“I commissioned this report for an independent view of home care and am taking strong action on home care fees and transparency,” he said.

“I expect administrative charges to be kept to a minimum, to maximise service delivery for senior Australians, and I am concerned with the practice of some providers charging high case management and administration costs.

“The requirement for home care providers to publish their current pricing information on My Aged Care (from 30 November 2018) is outlined within legislation in the User Rights Principles 2014.

“Approximately 30 per cent of providers have not published this information and they are now on notice that if they don’t comply they will be at risk of sanctions including funding penalties,” he said.

“The Department is actively monitoring home care providers and has already written to those who have not complied.”

“From 1 July 2019 providers will also be required to complete a standardised schedule of pricing information on My Aged Care. This will allow senior Australians and their families to make like-for-like comparisons,” Mr Wyatt said.

“The legislative changes required to mandate that all home care providers publish their pricing information within a standardised schedule on My Aged Care by 1 July 2019, are currently being finalised.”

Those not putting fees online should have “details taken off My Aged Care”

Dr Russell told HelloCare, “In my view, people who didn’t put up their fees [online] by 30 November should have their details taken off My Aged Care as punishment for ignoring the original instructions.”

But she said Mr Wyatt’s response to her report has been “fantastic”.

Dr Russell also said she was extremely grateful to Aged and Community Services Australia’s response to the report.

Pat Sparrow, CEO of ACSA, welcomed Dr Russell’s report. She said transparency in pricing is important for both consumers and the industry.

“People need to know what they are getting for their money,” she said in a statement.

Leading Age Services Australia backed Mr Wyatt’s call for improved compliance by home care providers with pricing transparency.

LASA CEO, Sean Rooney, said it is central to the success of the home care system that older Australians are fully informed.

“Transparency around pricing and administration fees provides consumers with the opportunity to make clear choices about the services they are purchasing and the value for money they are receiving,” he said.

“Level of unspent funds is too high”

Mr Wyatt said he was concerned about the high level of unspent funds in some cases.

“It is not unusual in package care arrangements for there to be some unspent funding.  

“People may choose to set aside a small portion of their budget for future events, such as the leave of a carer.

“However, I am aware that some in the sector are concerned that the current level of unspent funds is too high.

“Providers are encouraged to work together with their clients to develop a care plan that best meets the assessed care needs of the client, including managing their home care package through an individualised budget,” he said.

“When a client leaves the home care system, the Department reinvests unspent funds that are returned. This means more home care packages can be released.”

Providers assessed before licensing

Mr Wyatt said providers were suitably assessed before being licenced, and 114 applicants have been rejected due to the scrutinising process.

“The Department has a process in place to assess the suitability of organisations seeking to provide Government subsidised home care.”

“Applicants are asked to describe its experience and that of its key personnel; how it will ensure staff possess the necessary qualifications/skills to deliver care, and its understanding of its responsibility in relation to maintaining an adequate number of appropriately skilled staff to meet the needs of care recipients.

Aged care training is under review

Mr Wyatt said an Aged Services Industry Reference Committee is reviewing vocational education and training, and higher education to ensure the workforce can deliver safe and quality care to older Australians.

Dr Russell’s report said home care staff often lacked of qualifications, were inexperienced and there was high turnover of staff.

Mr Wyatt said those who are receiving home care can change providers if they are unhappy with the level of care they are receiving.

“If people are not satisfied with home care services and fees they have control of their package and can now change providers,” he said.

If you have any concerns about home care services, staff and fees, or the My Aged Care system, you should call the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822.

You can read Sarah Russell’s report ‘Older people living well with in-home support’ here.

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