I thank the Member for Parramatta for highlighting this pressing issue. Assistance to age in place has become the most in-demand form of aged care. It’s about showing respect for the wishes of older people to remain in their homes and part of their communities.

Of the 72,000 people waiting without having been offered any package, 11,000 are assessed as requiring a level 4 package to stay in their homes—worth $50,000 per year.

That most of those waiting have been approved for Commonwealth Home Support Program, CHSP, services is not an adequate remedy. It is a confusingly similar name but a very different program. The CHSP is designed to provide entry-level care to an amount below the lowest home care package. This is far less care than someone waiting for a level 4 package needs and deserves.

I see this lack of adequate care in the thousands of people on the waiting list being forced to enter residential care even though they can and want to stay at home. One man with motor neurone disease wrote to me to say he was told that his wait time would exceed his prognosis, and still they put him in the queue.

Another man wrote to me about how his wife was waiting so long for a home care package that he was no longer able to take care of her and had to place her in a residential care home. This makes little sense for government, as the annual spend on residential care per resident is higher than for a level 4 home care package. The lack of packages being made available is preventing the use of a lower cost option that the person concerned would actually prefer.

The current waiting time for packages is over 12 months. I have heard from constituents who have been waiting for over two years. We heard about them here this afternoon. But, in many cases, their care needs arise suddenly and they need immediate help.

Earlier this year, I heard from a constituent who was the full-time carer for her husband. She was involved in an accident and needed to go to Melbourne for surgery. She was unsure how long she would be away. Not wanting her husband to go into care, she could not get the surgery without first getting funding for a full-time carer to replace her while she was away.

When care at home is needed, older people are rarely in situations where waiting is easy. It puts strain on their families and on their communities as well. When a person is approved for a package, they are assessed for what their needs are now, not in 12 months’ time.

Concern about waiting for home care is of special importance in regional and rural areas. We have older populations who are increasingly needing care. In my electorate of Indi, 21 per cent of people are over 65, compared with 15 per cent nationally.

People in regional areas use residential care less than those in cities and face higher costs in travelling to services. In the Hume region, where my electorate is, there are 948 people on the waiting list.

I commend the government for increasing the number of packages available and reducing the length of the waiting list in the last quarter; however, for older people and their families who need help now these changes are not moving fast enough. If we want to offer a consumer driven and market based home care system, we cannot have the number of packages capped so far below demand.

I encourage the government to increase their rate of releasing new packages to clear the backlog. And if the government cannot solve the problem, then we need to legislate maximum wait times so that in the future older people can be certain of getting the right amount of care at the time that they need it.

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