Home care and your parents’ rights: Don’t get stuck with sub-standard care

Nov 13, 2019
Australians receiving home care services have certain rights and responsibilities, as outlined by the ACCC. Source: Getty

They say Australia is the lucky country and that certainly rings true for home care recipients who have the freedom to choose their own service. But having final say on a care package comes with its pressures, and over-60s have to understand the consumer rights and responsibilities that protect themselves and their parents.

For some people, allowing someone into their home to care for them can be a stressful ordeal. Thankfully, that’s why the Australian Consumer Law is in place – to help protect consumers purchasing government-funded home care packages.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) outlines a person’s rights under the Australian Consumer Law, which are in addition to the rights under the Aged Care Act. The government agency has a series of guides to help Aussies understand what these rights are and what can be done if the care received isn’t up to standard.

While initially home care packages (HCP) were a rigid system, since 2017 Aussies have had complete freedom when choosing a care provider to suit their needs, right down to choosing what services they receive and what to do if they’re unhappy with the level of service being provided.

In July this year, the government even launched the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, providing consumers with information on aged care consumer rights and provides support for consumers with concerns.

Speaking to Starts at 60, an ACCC spokesperson says Aussies have certain rights when purchasing home care goods or services, including the right to:

  • Be treated fairly and not be pressured into signing anything
  • Be given accurate information before you buy
  • Cancel a faulty service
  • Receive a repair, replacement or refund if something goes wrong
  • Change provider at any time (exit fees may apply)

Consumers have a right to choose their own home care service provider

Your parents have complete freedom to choose which provider works best for them. The ACCC advises those looking into home care to spend adequate time exploring options and asking questions about the products on offer, including hidden costs and exit fees.

The government agency suggests speaking to multiple providers and speaking to people who use their services. They also suggest that you seek out legal advice if you’re having difficulty understanding any information.

You can find providers and additional information about organising or receiving home care on the My Aged Care website.

Consumers have a right to quality service

As soon as your parent signs on the dotted line, they are automatically given rights known as consumer guarantees. As with any other purchase of goods or services in the country, the Australian Consumer Law ensures all people receive the promises set out by the home care provider.

The care should be delivered on time, with care and the appropriate level of skill and meet your parent’s agreed needs. If these guarantees aren’t met, you have the right to make a claim to the provider.

Consumers have a right to change providers

Choosing the right provider to suit your parent’s needs can be tricky, so if for some reason the one selected isn’t working out, or a better deal has arisen, they can easily change.

However, if there hasn’t been a breach in consumer rights, then there may be an exit fee involved. This amount can be taken from any unspent funds, with any leftover money transferred to the new provider.

In the instance that the service provider hasn’t delivered the level of service agreed upon, the exit fee may be scrapped. Before it gets to this point, your parents can contact the provider verbally or in writing to explain the problem and ask them to remedy the situation.

But if nothing is done to improve the situation, and your parents still aren’t happy, they do have the right to cancel their services and move to a new provider. They might also be entitled to receive compensation for any damages or losses caused by the problem. By law, the old provider is required to help the client with the transfer.

What to do if you believe there has been unfair treatment

If you have concerns about the level of care being provided, you can contact the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) on 1800 700 600 for assistance. The government funded network provides confidential assistance free of charge with representatives available to address issues relating to the access of and interaction with Commonwealth funded aged care services.

You can also contact The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on 1800 951 822 or by visiting agedcarequality.gov.au.

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