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COVID-19 adds to home care wait list as people delay move to aged care

“People want to get out of aged care [but] home care packages are not sufficient,” Mr Henschke said.

Those who were still at home were “more than ever, wanting to stay in their own homes for as long as possible”, he said.

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The Morrison government is under pressure to address the failings of the aged care system in the October budget as the Aged Care Royal Commission, which identified home care as a priority in its interim report last year, prepares to hand over its COVID-19 special report next week.

Mr Yates said the royal commission had established through the government’s own modelling that between $2 billion and $2.5 billion was needed to fix the home care waiting list so that elderly Australians would wait no more than 60 days for their approved package.

This could be done within two years, he said, allowing for workforce expansion.

Mr Henschke said at least 25,000 additional packages at levels three and four – the highest levels of care – were needed to “kill off that extreme end of the waiting list”.

The latest official data shows more than 103,000 Australians were waiting for a home care package in March, including almost 22,000 for a level four package, figures expected to dramatically increase by 2024 as the nation’s population ages.

The federal government has not yet released data for the June quarter, showing the impact of the pandemic.

Australian Unity, a major home care provider, has noticed an increase in calls from family members of elderly Australians during the pandemic seeking a higher level of care for their loved ones at home.

“With restrictions on local and interstate travel, many families are now starting to notice and appreciate the need for additional, external support for their older family members,” said Nick O’Callaghan, Australian Unity’s head of home and disability services.

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Department of Health figures show almost 30,000 people died in the past two years while waiting for a homecare package.

Mr Henschke said Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called the royal commission “to restore faith in a broken system” and so he must do that.

“If he breaks that promise, he will have harmed the lives of thousands of people who have been waiting for the royal commission to fix the system,” he said.

“That is a political promise you can’t break.”

Labor’s aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins said the government must use the October budget to “fix this crisis properly” and the time for “stopgap” measures was over.

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“The Morrison government cannot simply bring forward another miserly announcement of packages,” Ms Collins said.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the government had prioritised the funding of additional home care packages “at every opportunity” since the 2018-19 budget, with $3 billion in announcements for 50,000 additional home care packages, “and will into the future”.

Of the 50,000 packages announced in this time, just 300 went beyond what was promised in budget forward estimates.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced $325.7 million for 6105 home care packages in July, but none of these packages were at level four, which provide a level of care sufficient to keep an elderly recipient out of residential aged care.

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