‘I’ve thought about suicide’: pensionerDespite concerns from industry and individuals, the Government has not wavered.In a statement, Senator Fifield said “elements of an individual’s package” were “a matter for negotiation” under CDC.”In addition to what can be provided with the packaged care funding, providers and consumers can agree to additional services,” he said.Ms Harker said those additional services would drift out of reach after July 1.”Well, I have thought about suicide, because what else can I do,” she said.”It crosses your mind as you’re pondering all of these things and I wouldn’t be the only person to have thought along those lines.”
Seniors on Federal Government in-home care plans have been told they will have to pay more or consider moving into nursing homes if their services are cut when they are forced on to new packages in July.
More than 60,000 seniors who currently receive in-home care through federally funded Home Care Packages are set to be moved to Consumer Directed Care (CDC) by July 1.
Under CDC packages, the recipient has more choice about how their care is delivered; consumers are told how much their package is worth, and can negotiate with their care provider about what kind of care they receive.
However, it has been estimated up to 20 per cent of those being transitioned to the CDC program will suffer serious care shortfalls.
Thousands of recipients have been told by their home care providers that their new packages will not have enough funds to pay for the services they receive now.
Stroke victim left to cover shortfall
Margot Harker, 68, said she found out last month that her lifestyle would change dramatically.
After suffering a stroke four years ago, Ms Harker went through years of rehabilitation to ensure she could remain in her Canberra home, relying on care workers who visit twice a day.
I have thought about suicide, because what else can I do … I wouldn’t be the only person to have thought along those lines.Margot Harker
Ms Harker has been told by her providers that under a CDC package, her daily visits would cost an additional $2,185.86 per month.
She said the gap was much more than she could pay.
“I was really stunned,” she said.
“[I] hadn’t had any warning about the magnitude of it all. It was really frightening.
“My only income is the aged pension, which is $811 a fortnight.”
Government told providers care may be slashed
Speaking to the ABC last month, Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield, who is responsible for aged care, appeared to downplay the possibility of reductions in care levels under the CDC plan.
“Where an individual says to a provider, ‘I just want to keep what I’ve got’, then that’s what will happen,” Senator Fifield said.
However, less than a week after the ABC report, the Department of Social Services sent a guidance notice to care providers, advising them some care needs might not be met under the CDC packages.
The email was sent out in the early hours of Anzac Day, prompting speculation the department had sought to minimise attention to the notice.
“It suggests to me that the department really didn’t want people to know about this document,” Charmaine Crowe, a senior advisor at the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association of New South Wales, said.
“This document very much makes plain that unless the older person can fund the extra services that their package doesn’t cover from July 1, they would likely have to go into a nursing home.”
The document advised providers that if “care needs are not able to be met”, consumers should consider other options.
Those options were: reassessment to a higher level of package, topping up services using their own funds, or residential care.
Peak body fears impact
Aged and Community Services Association (NSW and ACT) chief executive Illana Halliday said her organisation, which represents non-profit care providers, had repeatedly warned the Government about the shortfall.
“We’ve been talking about this all the way through,” she said.
“We’ve been asking the Government [to] monitor and adjust. Make sure we look after these people.”
Ms Halliday said government planners had ignored the role “cross-subsidisation” played in home care.
She said care packages were combined into big “blocks” of recipients, meaning some recipients with less intense packages essentially subsidised those who needed more intensive in-home care.
That system would end in the move to individualised packages under CDC.