Reforms see Vic council abandon in-home aged care

The City of Greater Bendigo has announced it is pulling the plug on home support for elderly residents, saying it will no longer be able to operate under the new aged care system being heralded by the Federal Government.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Bendigo said it would end residential aged care and transfer its 1,800 clients to a new provider by June 30 next year.

A spokeswoman confirmed the jobs of 66 carers and 10 administration staff employed by the City of Greater Bendigo would be affected.

The city currently provides services including domestic help, personal care, home maintenance and social support.

The decision – which will save the council around $450,000 a year – was made “after careful consideration” and a review of services prompted by the planned introduction of the federal government’s new Support at Home program.

New elderly care system

The program is part of a national aged care reform launched in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

From 1 July 2024, Support at Home will combine the Home Care Package system with Commonwealth Home Support services (CHSP), some of which are provided by councils such as Bendigo.

As a result of the changes, many municipalities are rethinking their role in elderly care.

Corangamite Shire Council, in south-west Victoria, announced in September that it was reviewing the future of its services.

Review of community care has sought further information on the outcome of Corangamite’s review.

Divided market

Bendigo Mayor Andrea Metcalf said a review by consultants confirmed the council would struggle to continue operating under the new system.

“The city currently has a partial monopoly on the local aged care market, but the changes that will be introduced will make it difficult to continue,” Metcalf said.

“The Support at Home program aims to open up the market for aged care providers, make it more competitive and give customers greater choice about who they access care from.

“This will effectively split our customer base. There will also be changes in the payment structure from the federal government to the local government, making it difficult to budget to provide the service.”

Ms Metcalf also said if the city was to continue providing care, it would have to use taxpayers’ money to invest in new technology and fund an expert compliance committee, which would be unfair.

The council must fund the navigation officer

Ms Metcalf said the review indicated a number of local aged care providers were planning to expand in the Greater Bendigo region and the Federal Government was committed to finding new providers for existing council clients.

“The city will engage with the community in the first half of 2023 to determine how it can continue to support older adults in other ways,” she said.

The council will use the savings to fund a navigation officer to help customers transition to a new employer.

Executive officer Craig Niemann said the city had constantly adjusted its aged care system over the past 10 years in response to sector-wide changes.

“It has been recognized within the sector for a long time that local authorities were unlikely to remain an ongoing provider of aged care,” he said.

The city will continue with existing services until further notice.

The story first appeared on Government News

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