Support for thousands of older Australians wanting to stay at home is being hindered by workforce shortages, aged care advocates warn.
Commonwealth home care packages provide retirees with $9000 to $52,000 in funding for services such as cleaners, carers and gardners to prevent people moving into nursing homes.
But almost 100,000 people nationwide were staring down waits of over a year before being offered their approved level of support, September data shows.
Labor aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins on Monday accused the federal government of not funding enough packages, or ensuring there were enough workers to deliver the support.
“It should have done both,” Ms Collins said.
“It has a report on its desk about workforce … That is two years old and not one of the recommendations has been fully implemented.”
She is calling on the government to address the issues in the home care program, adding it could not afford to wait for the Aged Care Royal Commission findings due in late February.
Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said he expected the royal commission to recommend scrapping the four home care package levels – which range from basic to high care – in favour of designing a package for each person.
“From assessment to getting the package ought not to be more than a month,” he said, adding that should be achieved by the end of 2021.
“The real challenge with that is workforce.
“We will expect the government to deliver, in the May budget package, a timetable to achieve that goal with clear benchmarks along the way so that providers can confidently go out and recruit and train.”
Aged Care Services Minister Richard Colbeck said the government had invested in additional home care packages “at every opportunity” and would consider further steps when the royal commission handed down its final report next month.
He announced in December 10,000 home care packages for this financial year on top of 23,000 allocated in the October federal budget – which also included $10.3m over three years to implement its aged care workforce strategy.
Senator Colbeck hit back at Labor’s criticism saying it did not pledge any additional funding for home care packages or the aged care workforce at the 2019 election.
“Labor made no commitments to aged care in its recent budget reply, despite making significant commitments to other policy areas,” he said.
Senator Colbeck said the national prioritisation scheme, which distributes the packages based on date of approval and priority, was updated every night to ensure people with the earliest approval were first in line for a package.