Thousands of elderly wait more than 28 months for access to high-needs home care packages

Thousands of older Australians waited more than two years to access already approved high-level home care packages.

And more than half of all older people approved for residential aged care waited more than three months in 2019-20 to enter their new home, a Productivity Commission report on government services found.

The average wait time for high-level home care packages is 28 months, according to a Productivity Commission report.Credit:iStock

Nationally, 34 per cent of older people living at home but requiring some level of care reported their needs were not fully met. But of those aged over 65 who received services in the previous six months, 84.4 per cent said they were satisfied with the quality of help they received.

Home care packages, funded by the federal government, are designed to support older Australians still living at home with tasks including cleaning and showering. They can be approved at four levels: from level one for basic care, costing roughly $9000 a year, through to level four for high care at a cost of about $52,000 a year.

The report's aged care services section shows the average wait time for home care packages fell slightly in 2019-20 compared to the previous year.

Access to approved level one packages took six months, down from seven months in 2018-19. But more than 14,000 people approved for high-needs level four packages still had a median wait time of 28 months for their services, compared with 34 months in 2018-19.

As of September, almost 100,000 senior Australians were waiting for access to their approved home care packages.

In NSW, 32,660 people were waiting for their services, while 27,094 were waiting in Victoria, according to a federal parliamentary community affairs committee question on notice response.

Across the country, 14,314 people were waiting for level four packages and 40,480 for level three.

Wait times for the packages have been an ongoing issue. In the three years to mid-2020, about 30,000 people died while waiting for services, a Senate inquiry heard last year.

In the October budget, the Morrison government announced $1.6 billion in funding for an extra 26,000 home care packages.

But of those packages, just 2000 were at level four. The funding also includes 8000 level three, 8000 level two and 10,000 level one packages.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and those with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds were over-represented for home care packages but under-represented in other types of services, the Productivity Commission report found.

For people moving into residential aged care in 2019-20, the report found 42.2 per cent entered care within three months of their approval.

The median time between approval and entering care was 148 days, or just over 21 weeks. That wait time was lower than the 152 days in 2018-19, but higher than the 121 in 2017-18.

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