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DIY support at home funding. Admin blessing or disaster in the making?

With ongoing reforms to the Australian home care support packages and funding model, there has been a lot of speculation about what the next 10 years will look like for home care providers. Let’s take a look at what we know.

The current timeline

At this stage, the Australian Government plans to release stage one of the new Support at Home legislation on 1 July 2025. The new legislation will replace current Home Care Packages (HCP) and Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC).

In stage two, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), which provides entry-level support to older people who only need help with 1-2 daily tasks in order to remain at home, will transition to the new program no earlier than 1 July 2027. This stage was initially intended for rollout in 2025, but due to industry feedback, was pushed out two years.

However, there is very little information in the market about what these changes will look like and how home care providers can prepare for them. Given the ongoing delays, it isn’t clear whether these timelines will proceed as planned or be pushed back even further.

We also haven’t seen any information released about how the future CHSP clients will be managed between 2025 and 2027. Given that the Support at Home program is being rolled out first in 2025, will they be grouped with Support at Home clients from 2025-2027? And if that’s the case, how will home care providers manage the additional spike in care recipients?

The impact on care workers

It is clear that the aged care workforce is in crisis, and the current uncertainty around the proposed stage 1 rollout on 1 July 2025 isn’t helping. There is some speculation that the Support at Home legislation will mirror the NDIS model, with recipients encouraged to self-manage their funding.

But will this have an impact on care workers? Should they be anticipating a round of redundancies as of July 2025? And will the stage 1 rollout magically alleviate the extensive administrative burden that the Improved Payment Arrangements (IPA) has put on home care providers by placing this burden on the care recipient themselves?

The problems with a self-managed approach

Given the complexity of managing the cost of services delivered by the home care provider and by third-party vendors, it seems highly unrealistic that the client would take on the management of all services. The burden of managing third-party vendor invoices would most likely remain with the home care provider.

Now, let’s reflect on the NDIS roll-out. NDIS was widely regarded as a disaster at the time and has taken nearly a decade to successfully transition from concept into practice. after the scheme was introduced, the percentage of participants fully or partially self-managing their plan was 29%.

The theory behind self-management, both from a Support at Home and an NDIS perspective, is that recipients gain greater control over their support plan and how to spend funds. Theoretically, it allows them to achieve more flexibility in terms of how and when services are provided, and cost savings.

However, a commonly cited disadvantage of NDIS self-management is the responsibility involved. Clients and their families find it both complicated and challenging to keep track of all the guidelines, records, and spending, let alone get to grips with using the apps and client portals. Self-managing also requires careful budgeting and planning (not to mention effort) by or on behalf of clients to ensure they don’t overspend their NDIS funds.

If Support at Home takes its lead from the NDIS legislation, with no new lessons learned by legislators and concerns from the aged care sector dismissed, it doesn’t bode well for either aged care providers or clients.

 

We also need to consider another vital difference between NDIS and Support at Home recipients. Australians who have a disability and fall under the NDIS umbrella often have a carer who is accustomed to assisting with their needs – administrative and otherwise. Whereas those older, more able Australians who are without a designated carer, aren’t tech-savvy, or lack the confidence needed to submit their own claims online may need the support of their family. Which is where it gets messy.

Despite all the willingness in the world, families who are initially keen to help and support their loved ones by managing their funding applications and claims can rapidly find it an onerous and unwelcome chore. Submissions fall behind – or are missed.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, in 2021 alone, nearly a third (31%) of Australian families had both parents working full-time. By comparison, in 2009, only one in five (22%) families had both parents working full-time. In 2022, the proportion of dual-earner families increased to 71%, which is nearly double the level of 1979. As mortgage and cost of living rates continue to rise, this trend will likely continue.

Under pressure to bring in more income and do more with less, most parents – regardless of family makeup – are increasingly time-poor. The time commitment to assist ageing parents in managing their own Support at Home funds could be the last straw for many.

The industry also needs to consider the added complexity of clients who are fiercely independent and resistant to the idea of care – even when it is much needed. Without a care manager to navigate these cases, there is a risk that they will slip through the system, leaving their health and well-being at risk.

Should you go into a holding pattern?

While the details of and plans behind Support at Home self-managed funding remain unclear at this stage, it may not pay to get your hopes up that your current Improved Payment Arrangements (IPA) admin burden will fall to one side. Waiting it out is not a sound strategy.

Like NDIS, DIY management may be optional, or there may be a rise in independent agencies dedicated to outsourced fund management. However, the work that care managers perform cannot be underestimated, and it is highly likely that the majority of older Australians will still be heavily reliant on their support after 1 July 2025.

What is certain is that you need to take action today to improve efficiency, cash flow, and your bottom line. Otherwise, you may not be in a position to handle what comes in 2025 and beyond.

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