Research by a leading aged care body has revealed shocking evidence that older Australians are receiving an average of $35,000 less a year than those with similar impairments on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
The report Comparing aged care and NDIS support: A funding analysis, released April 24 by Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), found that the disparity in funding and support intensity identified through the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has been backed up by findings across NDIS and aged care programs.
The research found that for care recipients requiring low levels of support, the average Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) participants received over 80 per cent less funding than that provided to NDIS participants with low-level support needs. The analysis says “many, if not most, of the people receiving aged care have functional impairment similar to those qualifying for the NDIS”.
LASA gave several specific examples showing the staggering difference in yearly payouts based on people with similar impairments. In one example, a 63-year-old vision-impaired man on the NDIS is receiving $86,000 a year more in government assistance than an 84-year-old man with similar issues on an aged care Home Support Package. While in another example, a 68-year-old on NDIS and a 72-year-old on Home Care Package saw nearly $123,000 pa difference in payments.
While both services categorise people into levels based on the support needed, it appears the main reason behind the deficiency is that NDIS participants receive whatever support is necessary, with a largely uncapped limit, while those in aged care are classified into bands with capped funding. LASA says the difference should be looked into by the Morrison government in the upcoming May budget, which is due to address the commission’s 148 recommendations.
Earlier this month, the Council on the Ageing (COTA) and 12 other peak bodies including LASA issued a joint statement identifying a range of urgent reforms the government must implement in the upcoming Federal Budget, saying older Australians expect big changes and won’t settle for the government “cherry-picking” or putting off vital recommendations.
Sean Rooney, LASA chief executive officer, said he was in no way suggesting the NDIS recipients were receiving too much money, but rather they were being given the appropriate care and support, as opposed to the aged care system’s “unacceptable” level of support.
“Australians with a disability receive much needed care and support through the NDIS, which includes choice and flexibility according to their needs,” he said. “The NDIS shows how, with commitment, we can meet the needs of those in need of support in our community. As the Royal Commission found, our aged care system is a long way from this, describing it in its final report as ‘unacceptable’ and ‘unsustainable’.
“LASA’s report found that total government funding for aged care recipients averages around one-quarter of that allocated to NDIS participants. Overall we see less funding per aged care recipient and this results in fewer available hours of care when compared with NDIS participants, plus there are limits placed on funding in aged care for reablement, social engagement, behaviour support, care management and assistive technology.
“This often leaves aged care recipients, particularly in home care, contending with unmet needs. Where their funds are insufficient, they will often accumulate funding for future demands or seek alternative sources of support to cross-subsidise their aged care needs.”
Rooney said LASA’s analysis of the two programs found that older Australians were the ones losing out by having their payments capped, and the quality of the care and support was suffering as a result. Rooney said the body was calling on the government to help older Australians access reasonable and necessary supports matched to their individual needs.
“Our study comparison also highlights the difference in the way each program assigns participants their funded supports. NDIS funding allocations are largely uncapped, matched to assessed need and provided at a level that can deliver reasonable and necessary support,” he said. “However, aged care funding allocations are capped within set funding bands as determined through assessment of need.
“Without aged care recipients having access to adequate levels of funding support to supplement the cost of their aged care needs, the level, quality and outcomes of the care and support they receive may suffer. This ultimately increases pressures on older people, the aged care workforce and providers of services.
“System settings need to be focused on the respect and essential human rights of our elders, so they can access reasonable and necessary supports matched to assessed need.”
The report found that aged care programs helped about 1.3 million people throughout 2019-’20, while the NDIS had only 400,000 participants as of September 30, 2020. While the analysis recognised the difficulty in comparing individual circumstance, it found that many who are receiving CHSP would be classified at a moderate level of support under the NDIS.
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