Grievance Debate – Home Care

Monday, 26 November 2018

Mr PITT: I raise a grievance on behalf of the people who I represent in my electorate. Like you, Mr Deputy Speaker, my electorate is one that has a lot of seniors, a lot of retirees, a lot of pensioners and, in particular, a lot of people who are not well-off and who do not have a large amount of disposable income. The people in my electorate are being let down by providers of home care services. Some of these providers are lifting over 30 per cent of an individual’s package in administration and management costs. These are real people. The amounts that I will go through are from actual invoices for real persons on particular packages who live in my electorate or who have relations in my electorate. I’ve got to say that it is unacceptable. This is taxpayers’ money. It is being provided for a particular purpose, and the senior people of my electorate who do choose to stay at home are not being cared for sufficiently.

Our government is committed to giving senior Australians as many choices as possible, and I acknowledge that. There are many who choose to remain living in the security of their own homes—a place that they love, that they may well have been in for many decades, which is close to their families and close to their communities. I think it is a message that all of us can understand, if they wish to stay at home for as long as they can with support. Unfortunately, in my electorate of Hinkler, there are a number of challenges that are making this extremely difficult for some of our seniors. Regardless of where we may live, we should all have the same opportunity. It does not matter whether you live in the city, it does not matter whether you live in a regional town or in a remote area, the long wait for level 3 and 4 packages continues. It continues for consumers in my region. They simply don’t understand, when they are classed as a priority level 4, why they are still waiting eight to nine months. And I ask the same question on their behalf: a person classed as a priority level 4 waits for eight or nine months. We have an ageing population in my electorate. My office knows of a scenario where a lady in her late 60s, who is already on a lower level package, is trying to care for her 90-year-old-plus mother and has been told the wait time for a level 4 package is likely to be seven to nine months. This is not acceptable.

The fees being charged by some of these providers do need more transparency. We have had a number of constituents contact my office to express their concerns about what is being charged to administer home care packages. So I’m calling for more transparency from our service providers. What is the difference between these two charges? Why are they chewing up more than 30 to 40 per cent of the subsidy that is provided for home care services? In many cases, the fees being paid are substantially higher than the care being provided.

As I said at the outset, these are actual invoices provided to me by my constituents, and I’ll go through a number of these examples so that it’s very clear what is happening. For a home care package of level 4, the government provided $4,546.50 for the month of September 2018. The administration charge was $586.50. The case management cost was $826.50. That is $1,413, or 31 per cent, of the amount provided. For that, they provided $79.65 worth of services for the month—$79 worth of services! For August, the same package was $4,698.05. There were admin costs of $606.05 and case management costs of $854.05. Those costs were $1,460.10, or 31 per cent, of the government-provided subsidy. That was to provide $159.30 worth of services.

On a level 2 package from a different provider for a different individual, the monthly charges between 16 August and 15 September were: administrative support, $257.50, and case management, $257.50; that is, $515 for $214 worth of support services. The monthly charges from 25 June to 22 July were, once again, for admin support and case management at $532.40, to provide $223 worth of support services. The monthly charges from 28 May to 18 June were $536.46, for both case management and admin support, to provide $253.47 worth of support services.

The third example was outside of my electorate, but a relative of the individual lived in my electorate. It was another level 4 package, provided with $3,811.20 in May 2018 for support. The admin and case management charges were $1,488.79, or 39 per cent of the supported subsidy provided for their care, to provide $1,559.87 of personal care. In March 2018, the government subsidy was $3,557.12 and the admin and case management charges were $1,417.79—that is, 39 per cent of the government’s subsidy—to provide $1,417.72 of personal care. And the numbers continue: in December 2017, there were $2,416 in subsidies, with admin and case management charges of $931.52, or 38½ per cent of the government subsidy, to provide $1,299.68 of personal care.

I acknowledge that Minister Wyatt has been to my electorate a number of times because we are clearly an area where we have a high level of service need. I acknowledge that Minister Wyatt has provided additional funds for CHSP which will start in January. But we find ourselves in a difficult position, and, on behalf of the people that I represent, this cannot continue. These are the situations people are in. A 75-year-old man who is legally blind with mobility issues was receiving home care and transport. His smoke alarm was beeping for several days every minute. He couldn’t get assistance to have the smoke alarm batteries changed by a provider. He was not eligible for Home Assist Secure. Fortunately, another provider organised for that to be fixed free of charge because they were concerned for his safety, and I congratulate the provider that did that on his behalf. A married couple, both in their 80s, where the wife has dementia and the husband is bound to a wheelchair, received CHSP-funded home care and transport. Their roof has been leaking during storms due to several cracked roof tiles. They called as there were more storms forecast and they were concerned about how much water would come inside—as you would be. There were spare tiles in the shed, but the services advised that no home maintenance service was offered by their organisation.

Consumers are also being told that if they require additional services while waiting for a higher-level package, they are able to access them, but have to pay extra. This can, of course, include a call-out fee. Most or many of my constituents simply cannot afford to pay. So, once again, I am calling for transparency on fees. I acknowledge the work that Minister Wyatt has been doing, and the injection of funds which will commence in January. But there are solutions to this. How is it possible that an individual organisation can charge up to 38 per cent of the provided support in service fees for no provision of service? I will repeat that: for no provision of service. There are savings and efficiencies to be found here, in my view, which could then be put towards service provision, which is the purpose of this money. We need efficiencies in this supply. We need to ensure that action is taken. Not only do we require more packages—and I am hopeful that Minister Wyatt has been successful; I know MYEFO is coming before December to provide more services of this nature—but what we are providing right now is not adequate.

Minister Wyatt, as I said, has been to my electorate a number of times. I congratulate him on the work that he has done. He is genuine in his concern for elderly Australians. But the model that we have now originally started, for me, as a fight for more beds—for additional facilities in our region because we simply did not have enough. That has been provided. But, as a result of more individuals staying home for longer, some of those providers for aged-care residential services are down to under 80 per cent occupancy, which is unheard of in my region. So we need to ensure that we get the model right. We need to ensure we provide sufficient funding. We need to ensure that the service providers are not milking people of all of this money rather than providing services for people who are in need.

These are our people. They deserve our respect. They deserve to have dignity in their lives. We are providing them an opportunity to stay at home for longer, which is in their interest, I think. But we must ensure that there are adequate services in regional areas. Simply because someone nominates does not mean they actually provide those services locally. So, once again, I call for more transparency on our service providers. We need to ensure they are delivering what is needed, and I hope that Minister Wyatt will be successful in his lobbying for MYEFO for additional funding to support these dignified senior Australians.

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