Aussies have far greater control over their own and loved ones’ home care than ever before, but that means many 60-pluses are dealing for the first time with a new way of funding care and all the consumer rights and responsibilities that go with choosing such a vital service.
Australian Consumer Law protects consumers when they buy everyday goods and services, and the same rights apply when buying home care goods and services or receiving them under a government-funded home care package.
Luckily, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has produced a series of free, easy-to-read guides to help people navigate their rights under the Australian Consumer Law after they are allocated home care funding. The rights in these guides apply in addition to your rights under the Aged Care Act.
Home care services can range from assistance with personal care and domestic duties to the provision of transport or nursing services – essentially, any form of care that helps someone to continue to live in their own home.
The government used to allocate consumers who qualified for funding via a Home Care Package (HCP) to a local care services provider, which meant there was little or no choice on which provider they got or even the services they received.
But since February 2017, a big and continuing overhaul of the aged care system has given Aussies more control over their own care. Under this consumer-directed care (CDC) model, people with a HCP have the option to choose a care provider suited to their needs, more choice on services, and importantly, the ability to change providers if they’re dissatisfied.
While CDC is a positive change, it means that users now need to understand their rights as a buyer of care. In fact, knowing those rights is key to getting the best possible result from their home care funding.
As a consumer, you have a right to:
The ACCC explains, though, that there are some key protections to be aware of particularly when purchasing and using home care.
When signing up for home care, make sure you do your research, ask as many questions of the service provider as you need, and read reviews from their other clients before signing up. If you’re feeling pressured to sign a home care contract, remember that it’s your decision – take the time to find the best care for you.
Don’t ever sign anything you don’t understand. If you’re unsure of any element of a contract, review it with a trusted family member or friend or a legal adviser. Don’t sign anything on the spot. Take your time, ask questions and make sure you’re clear on and comfortable with the agreement you’re signing.
You can find providers and more information about organising or receiving home care on the My Aged Care website.
Australia has special ‘consumer guarantees’ that apply to services, which say that service providers must provide services with due care and skill, that are fit for the purpose and are provided within a reasonable time (if no specific time period was set).
Consumer guarantees are like promises that a business must give to you.
Home care, like any service, should be delivered on time, with care and the appropriate level of skill, and meet your agreed needs.
If your service provider is consistently late or unreliable, or isn’t delivering what they said they would – in effect, failing to meet their consumer guarantees – you have a right to ask for the situation to be rectified. You can do this by contacting the provider verbally or in writing to explain the problem and asking them to remedy the situation.
If the issue is minor, your care provider can offer to fix the problem within a reasonable time – and what’s reasonable depends on the nature of the specific issue. But if they can’t fix the service in a reasonable time, you can cancel the service either verbally or in writing.
In some situations, you can also ask a service provider to compensate you for any damages or losses caused by the problem and if the services have already been provided, negotiate a refund to cover the services that were unacceptable.
If you feel you weren’t treated fairly by your service provider in remedying problems with your care, you can contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600 for assistance.
OPAN provides free, independent and confidential services that help older Australians address issues with government-funded home and aged care services and can even act as an advocate for you in discussions with service providers if you feel unable to do so.
It’s important to understand and exercise your rights when it comes to decisions affecting your care, and the ACCC’s free guides provide valuable information on how to do so, so you or your loved ones to receive the best result from your home care package.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.