Synod wants access to affordable home care maintained

Synod wants access to affordable home care maintained

The Moderator of the Uniting Church’s Synod of New South Wales and the ACT is to call on the Federal Government and Opposition to ensure access to community aged care by people with limited means.

A meeting of the Synod in Sydney on April 14 accepted a proposal that the Moderator, the Rev. Dr Brian Brown, ask the Government and Opposition to:

  • commit to maintaining access for older Australians to affordable home care services, particularly for all pensioners;
  • ensure that the level of co-payments does not discourage access to home care or reduce the capacity of aged care providers to provide services; and
  • review proposed arrangements for co-payments for home care packages to ensure that access and affordability is achieved.

The proposal followed a report from UnitingCare NSW.ACT. UnitingCare Ageing is a major provider of community aged care services.

Synod noted that community aged care (“home care”) is the preference of many older Australians who require care and other support services.

Home care is a flexible and effective means of preventing premature admissions to residential aged care and for the support of older people with chronic health conditions to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions

The Federal Government is proposing that from July 1, 2014, new people receiving home care packages will be asked to pay a care fee based on a means test, in addition to the basic care fee already payable.

The additional means-tested care fee will apply when income exceeds $23,543 for a single part-pensioner. For every $1 of income above that level, an additional 50 cents of income tested fee will apply up to $33,543.

The income-tested fee will be capped at $5,000 per annum for part pensioners and $10,000 per annum for self-funded care recipients.

In effect, the real annual cap is the amount currently payable (being the basic fee of $3,163) plus $5,000 per annum (that is, a total of over $8,000 per annum for part-pensioners and over $13,000 per annum for self funded care recipients).

While the proposed additional co-payments are based on income, they do not take account of the sometimes onerous costs people receiving care incur at home, including repairs and maintenance, utilities, pharmacy, oxygen, vital-call, transport, allied health services and other costs associated with medical needs.

The other factor not taken into account is that part-pensioners earning $23,543 and above are already losing 50 cents in every additional $1 of income through loss of pension.

The total result is a loss of 75% of every additional $1 earned by part-pensioners earning above $23,543. Any income tax payable on each additional $1 of income earned will be a further loss.

The income-tested fee will be collected by the reduction in the subsidy which would otherwise be payable by the Government to the community care provider for that care recipient.

High co-payments for home care will reduce the willingness of older people to seek access to community care and/or reduce the funds available for the provision of their care.

The Synod will encourage congregation members to contact their local Federal Member of Parliament to seek their support for ensuring that consumer co-payments for home care packages are affordable and accessible, particularly for all pensioners, and that the proposed new regime for co-payments is reviewed to achieve those objectives.

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