The Australian aged care system is in the midst of an overhaul. A ten-year reform plan released in 2012 aims to create a sustainable, consumer-driven and market-based aged care system. Many of the policy changes have focused on packaged home care services, which provide support for older people who are eligible for residential aged care to remain in their own homes.
This Issues Brief synthesises government and non-government policy and research documents that have examined the impact of recent home care reforms on older people and their carers, the aged care workforce and providers, and the wider Health System. Recommendations are made to fill identified gaps in the development and evaluation of the home care reforms.
Firstly, this Issues Brief examines reforms that target access to home care for older people and their carers, including the creation of My Aged Care, the Home Care Packages Program, and the national prioritisation queue. Older adults’ experiences of consumer directed care, both in Australia and internationally, are discussed. The availability of information on provider quality to inform consumer choice and the measurement of outcomes of people using home care services are also examined.
Secondly, the importance of understanding the effect of the reforms on a home care workforce under pressure is highlighted, including the need for monitoring work conditions and quality of care under new emerging models.
Finally, this Issues Brief calls for the use of public data collections to examine the impact of the home care reforms on the wider Health System for those both receiving and waiting to receive home care.
Policy reform is needed to ensure that our aged care system can meet the needs of Australia’s rapidly ageing and increasingly diverse older population. However, these reforms should be guided by consumer input and the recommendations of independent reviews where these are based on research evidence.
A rigorous evaluation plan should be built into future home care policy reforms to ensure improved monitoring of the impact of changes on older adults and the people and systems that support them.