TRANSCRIPT - Doorstop Interview
Benetas Customer Centre, Home Care
With Michael Sukkar MP, Member for Deakin
and Sandra Hills, CEO of Benetas
22 May 2015
E & OE
Home care choice budget announcement, Consumer Directed Care.
Michael this is obviously an important visit for you. Tell us a little bit
about what this means?
Well it’s wonderful to have Minister Fifield here at Benetas in Mitcham.
Obviously the reforms to home care packages, making it simpler for consumers to
go and choose the services they want rather than being locked into one
particular provider or another I think is an outstanding change in the budget.
So it’s great to be here today to hear from Benetas who are on the front line
dealing with families and often people in difficult circumstances. So thank you
Mitch for coming out to Benetas and thank you to the team at Benetas for
hosting us here today. It is a very important service they provide to my
electorate. And they do an outstanding job in serving the families of our
elderly and hopefully this announcement in relation to home care packages will
make Benetas’ life easier as well as ultimately the consumer.
Okay thank you very much. Minister I’m just going to ask the CEO a quick
question here first. Obviously this is a time of enormous change in the
industry here. How does an organisation like Benetas respond to that?
We’ve been working on the changes, the aged care reform changes, for over three
years, once the Government announced them. So our organisation allocated
significant resources to actually put together a team and you’ve met some of
those people today. We’ve been working on this for three years, we’ve really
been focused on trying to provide quality services and we’re almost over the
line. We’ve almost got all of our clients over to Consumer Directed Care. So
come the 1st of July we’re really excited
about that. I’m not saying that it hasn’t been without its challenges, it has
been. And we know that come the 1st of July we won’t have got
everything right, but we’re really excited about this time in aged care. We
know that the Minister has made some announcements about individualised
funding. And that announcement was made in the budget last week. We still know
we have some work to do and we’re really excited by the opportunities that lie
ahead for our service users.
It’s great to be in Deakin with Michael Sukkar, the local member. And thanks to
Sandra and the team at Benetas for hosting us here, where we have the
opportunity to talk about an important budget announcement. From February 2017
home care packages with attach to the individual, giving the individual the
capacity to choose the service provider of their choice.
At the moment
the arrangement is that aged care providers have to apply through an annual
aged care approval round to have access to home care packages. Aged care
providers aren’t necessarily sure why they were successful when they are
successful. And when they are not successful, they’re not necessarily sure why
that was the case. So the current arrangements aren’t satisfactory from the
point of view of providers.
And from the
point of view of consumers at the moment, once they’re assessed as being
eligible for a home care package they have to, firstly, find a home care
provider who has a home care package. And, secondly, they’ve got to find a home
care provider who has a package at the level at which they’re assessed. And if
someone, for whatever reason, would like to change providers, at the moment
they’ve got to resign from their provider. They've got to resign from their
package and go through the exercise again of trying to find a provider who has
a package firstly, and secondly, who has one at the assessed level.
from February 2017, the power will be in the hands of the consumer. And over
four years about $7.4 billion worth of home care package funding will be
directed to individual consumers rather than through providers. So the
individual will be at the centre and in control.
So this is really an important companion to Consumer Directed Care because on
the one hand you’re giving consumers the control to determine their own package
as of 2017 it’s going to be much easier for them to shop around. Do you think
maybe there is some frustration that that’s not easier to do now as of July 1st when everybody is on
Consumer Directed Care packages?
I think there will be some frustration. It’s great that from the 1st of July there’ll be much
greater transparency and much greater visibility for consumers in relation to
home care packages. Really for the first time they’ll get a regular statement
about what the various elements of their package are. The amounts that are
being spent and the amounts that are unexpended. Also what the administration
costs are. And with that visibility there is the opportunity for consumers to
negotiate with their providers about the elements of their package. So that
visibility is a great thing. But the real power for consumer comes in having
the capacity to choose their service provider. CDC if you like, is a halfway
house. The changes in February 2017 will complete the task of putting the
consumer at the centre and in charge.
Now, as you can imagine with any change like this, there are people who are
welcoming this change, they like the control, they like the feeling that they
have more of a say in how their care is provided. As you will be aware and as I
think you discovered this week in Brisbane on the air on Wednesday, there are a
number of people who are concerned, particularly people who are on level three
and four home care packages, that in the transition to CDC when it all comes
out in the wash, they are being offered considerably less care than they
receive now. And in fact as I pointed out in one of my reports earlier, there
was some guidance from the Department of Social Services to providers that
indicated that this may come up and they offered alternatives that people
should discuss. Things like perhaps people could renegotiate their package,
which I’m told is very rarely successful, or they could top it up with their
own funds or consider residential care. Are you concerned that there is still
this problem out there for a relatively high number of people that they are transitioning
to CDC on level three or four packages and they are finding that they are
getting significantly less care when they make that transition?
Well, one of
the issues with the former arrangements was when an individual was looking for
a provider and they find a provider who had a package, often they would find
that the provider didn’t have a package at the level to which they were
entitled. So you could have someone who needed a level four package, but the
provider only had a level two package. So in some circumstances, the provider
would offer that level two package and then top that up from the money from
someone else’s package. Now the previous government, when they first started
the initial CDC packages, gave providers three years notice to regularise
arrangements. Given the average length of time a person is on a package is a
bit under two years. That meant there was the opportunity for providers, and
there was certainly the intention, that providers would transition over time as
people left packages and came onto new packages, to make that adjustment
without affecting individuals.
Now, what is
becoming increasingly clear is that not all providers have done what they
should have done over that period. Benetas is a terrific provider and has been
a model in that regard. But not all providers have done what they should have.
So that’s disappointing.
what I will be putting in place is an arrangement so that if there are
individuals who have higher needs, who are concerned that there may be a gap in
terms of the level of care that we can, firstly, have a process in my
Department that can look at whether they are getting the full value and benefit
out of their package, and if there is still an issue we can look at whether we
issue a higher level package to that provider to take account of that
can you tell us a little more about how this is going to work? Is this
essentially, within the Department, there is going to be an appeal bodies per se,
sort of speak, rather that will look at people’s cases on an individual basis
and see if perhaps there is some relief that can be provided?
There will be
a team of staff who will work through, very closely with individuals, on a
case-by-case basis to firstly, check that they are getting the full value of
the package that has been allocated to them. Secondly, they will be
looking to make sure that providers are doing the right thing. That for
instance, there aren’t excessive administration charges. I’ve heard of some
examples where there are administration charges of up to 40 per cent, which
strikes me as peculiar and not acceptable. So that will be the second thing
that is looked at. And the third thing that will be looked at is whether there
is the need to issue a higher level package to someone, say, who has been on a
level two package that had been topped up from someone else’s package. And that
is the important other side of the equation. If someone is being topped up,
they are being topped up at the expense of someone else. It means that there is
someone else who wasn’t getting the full value of their own package.
there was a period of notice of three years that the previous government gave
that should have provided ample opportunity for providers to make adjustments
over time without affecting individuals. But where individual consumers have
concerns then we want to work through those with them.
are essentially talking about what they call cross-subsidisation here where
some people who, providers have lots of people, some were over serviced, and
some of that money was being used to provide people who were underserviced. Do
you think one of the unintended consequences of this policy was the impact of
that issue was underestimated, the cross subsidisation was more prevalent in
the level three and four packages than policy makers might have realised?
I think it is a combination of issues. I think that there are some unreasonable
administration charges on the part of some providers. I also think that there
are some providers who did not take the opportunity and did not adhere to the
intention of government policy, policy initiated by the previous government,
which was to use the three years to regularise arrangements so as not to impact
you give us, I know you don’t have real details yet, but when will this
procedure begin and how is it, the money going to materialise to pay for this,
if there is extra cost involved, where is that going to come from?
aged care, it is essentially a demand driven program, so there is the
opportunity, where there is the need, to make adjustments through offering a
higher level package in individual cases to do that.
as you know Aged and Community Services New South Wales and some other bodies
have estimated the number of people affected could be anywhere from 15 to 20
per cent of people who are being transition to CDC packages, roughly 20 per
cent of 60,000 if my maths is right, that is about 12,000 people, that is a lot
of people who might be calling in for a reappraisal of the that they have been
I am not going to put a figure on the number of people because we really need
to work through individual circumstances. We need to work out, if it is a case
of someone not getting the full value of their package, not having had the
opportunity to fully negotiate what is in their best interests. Whether it is a
function of higher administration charges or if there is a case where a
provider hasn’t taken the opportunity to make the transition over time.
Minister, thank you very much your time.
contact: Lydia Paterson | 0409 792 081 | firstname.lastname@example.org