Elderly forced into care after vital funding never arrives
More than 16,500 elderly NSW residents are languishing on the waiting list to receive a home care package, sparking fears many have been prematurely forced into residential facilities during a deadly pandemic.
As the aged care sector struggles to protect the country's most vulnerable to COVID-19 from harm, The Daily Telegraph can reveal at least 16,608 people in NSW have been promised funding for home care - such as nursing visits or meals on wheels - but have not yet received a cent.
The Home Care Packages Program report shows there were 103,599 elderly people either without funds or shunted to a lower level of payment than approved for nationally as of March 31.
Council on the Ageing chief executive Ian Yates said the waiting times were "unacceptably high".
"People can wait up to 18 months to get the package they were assessed for," he said. "Many then unnecessarily go into residential care, which is not ideal as people are safer at home."
Mr Yates said without promised home care packages, healthy elderly people often become a "carer" for their spouse, which can spark their own deterioration due to the burden.
"We think this is the absolute highest priority," he said. "If packages were available on demand, after being assessed, then why should a person wait more than a month."
Labor's aged care spokeswoman Julie Collins said even more older Australians were seeking home care after seeing the tragic coronavirus outbreaks in residential facilities.
"We desperately need a fit-for-purpose workforce that can deliver care to the thousands of older Australians on the waiting list," she said, adding the elderly could not wait until the budget for more money to fund the positions.
Analysis of the home care system has found about 30,000 older Australians died over two years waiting for their approved packages, while more than 32,000 entered residential aged care because their needs increased.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the federal government would continue to "prioritise" the funding of aged care home packages at "every opportunity".
Originally published as Elderly forced into care after vital funding never arrives