In the context of an aged care industry that’s stretched to bursting point, the existence of a huge pool of unspent public money seems highly unlikely. But that’s just what’s emerged from the Royal Commission into Aged Care, with accumulated Home Care Package funds in excess of $300 million. If you or a family member has a Home Care Package, how can you make sure that your budget is being used to full effect, and that you’re getting the most from your funding?
Your package, your budget
Consumer Directed Care is still gaining momentum, and many Australians remain unaware of the control and flexibility they’re now entitled to. If you’re currently receiving support under a Home Care Package in Australia, your level of package will determine the annual budget that you have to spend on support services.
The Department of Health recommends that providers work together with clients to develop a support plan which takes into account their needs and goals. This conversation should also look in detail at how your Home Care Package funds will be spent. The reality for many people is often quite different. Many clients are advised the hours of support each week that their level of package ‘entitles’ them to, with the hours seemingly predetermined. Added to that, little clarity exists around how their budget is allocated and whether they have the flexibility to demand they’re getting the best value for money.
What are unspent funds?
Unspent funds accumulate when an individual’s support plan does not use all the money available to them under their current Home Care Package level. While this might seem like a good problem to have, the Commission has heard evidence that home care providers are accumulating about $6,000 of unspent funds per client a year. Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt recently acknowledged that Australia-wide, providers are sitting on almost $330 million of unspent funds.
The announcement has industry grappling with questions about why such a surplus exists. Is it a matter of funds not being allocated effectively? Or is it symptomatic of an industry that’s lacking in consumer clarity about how they’re entitled to spend their money?
Why your Home Care Package funds may accumulate
According to researchers working on behalf of Minister Wyatt, there are a number of reasons why your government subsidy may not be completely used. Some consumers on a waiting list for a higher level package may have their package level increased, with their services remaining the same for some time. Consumers are also able to save up funds for any unforeseen future events like an illness or injury.
A more concerning trend relates to the lack of availability of services in regional areas, which has seen people waiting months to access the support they need. While they wait, their funds accumulate. Mable is seeking to address this problem by providing an online community where you can find and hire independent support workers in your local area. Consumer Directed Care is placing greater pressure on providers to deliver tailored home care when their clients want it. In this environment, it’s flexible, community-based solutions like Mable that can help provide the solution.
Understand your Home Care Package budget and how to spend it
Regardless of the reason, the issue of unspent funds has highlighted the need for greater transparency around their home care package budgets and how they can be spent. Providers will often differ on what individuals can spend their money on. This difference is understandable, with limited clear guidance from government about what’s allowed and what’s not. Broadly speaking, your Home Care Package funds can be spent on items that can be proven to contribute to your health and wellbeing and/or linked to your support plan. However, providers interpret this in different ways, with some only allowing for services that meet your direct support needs.
Leading Age Services Australia outline specific instances where funds cannot be used, including:
- as a source of general income
- for the purchase of food, except as part of enteral feeding requirements
- payment for permanent accommodation or home modifications that are not related to your care needs
- travel and accommodation for holidays
- cost of entertainment activities, such as club memberships, tickets to sporting events or for gambling activities
- payment for services and items covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme
While the question of what services can be included remains somewhat fluid, when it comes to the question of cost, many would argue that it’s needlessly confusing.
From November 2018, all approved Aged Care providers were required to publish their pricing information on My Aged Care. Despite this, up to a third still has not done so. There is also a huge variability when it comes to what these fees and charges for services are, with no set pricing determined by government.
How you can take control of your money
It’s not all bad news. In a market that’s increasingly driven by what the consumer wants, more options are now emerging for how people can choose to spend their funds.
Mable gives you an accessible, easy, efficient and safe online platform to find independent support workers from your local area. Self-managing your home care package means our approved provider partners can offer a lower administrative fee, freeing up more funding for you to spend on your services. And if you’re finding and engaging your support workers or support team directly, you choose what you pay, and have complete transparency over what you’re spending.
Find out how much value you could be getting from your home care package. Contact us today.