Making the most of your Home Care Package

Client on Better Caring using iPad

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More than 1 000 000 older Australians receive some form of home care, with many dipping into their own pockets to fund it. The government also provides ageing people in Australia with financial assistance to obtain the care they need to continue living safely and independently at home. Called Home Care Packages, they range from Level 1 for low-level care to Level 4 for high-level care, with each level allocated an individual funding amount or budget.

Over 80 000 Australians are recipients of Home Care Packages, with this number set to increase to 140,000 over the next 5-7 years.

From February 27 this year, consumers finally have the freedom to shop around for the best deal when it comes to using their home care package.

But what is a good deal and how do you know when you’re getting one?

With many consumers in the dark about Consumer Directed Care, and little understanding of what they are currently paying their provider, how do you determine whether you are getting a good deal from your home care package? And, for those that have the means to pay privately, how do you make the decision to do so?

We’ve created this guide to take you through the steps to determine what’s a good deal for you and your circumstances.

Firstly, how do you access a Home Care Package?

The starting point for accessing government funding is the My Aged Care contact centre 1800 200 422 and website www.myagedcare.gov.au. My Aged Care provides a central registration function and initial screening of people seeking government funded services. If you are initially assessed over the phone as having complex and multiple care needs, the My Aged Care contact centre will refer you for a further assessment undertaken by your local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) to determine the type of care needed and the level of Home Care Package required.

Once you are allocated a package by My Aged Care, you must find a provider to host the package for you. Now is the time to make sure they’re providing you with the best value (importantly, the most hours of care) from your package.

Your personal fee contribution

People accessing a Home Care Package are generally required to contribute to their package funding by paying a basic daily care fee $9.97 per person per day, along with an additional income tested fee.

If you are a full pensioner, (your income is less than $25,792 a year) you will be asked to contribute:$9.97 per day and no more than $3,624 a year.
If you are a part-pensioner, you will be asked to contribute:$9.97 per day + an amount based on your income, but no more than $5,118 a year.
If you are a self-funded retiree, you will be asked to contribute:$9.97 per day + an amount based on your income, but no more than $10,375 a year.

Importantly, the amount you contribute is the same, regardless of the Level of your home care package.

It’s also important to note that the government is allowing providers to waive the basic fee of $9.97 a day – so part pensioners can pay nothing. Some providers are already putting this into practice, so you should make sure you ask the question when you’re shopping around. Note that this should not impact your overall budget, which should remain the same.

Home Care Package individual funding amounts

The level of your home care package determines how much funding you have available for care.

Level 1 – $22.04 a day, or $8,054 a year
Level 2 – $40.09 a day, or $14,633 a year
Level 3 – $88.14 a day, or $32,171 a year
Level 4 – $133.99 a day or $48,906 a year

The government reduces its contribution to this package by the amount you are required to contribute (if any), so that the total funding available remains the same, regardless of your contribution.

Level of Home Care PackageTotal Package budget per yearYour annual fee maximum if full pensionerYour annual fee maximum if part pensionerYour annual fee maximum if self-funded retiree
1$8,054$3,624 cap$5,118 cap$10,375 cap
2$14,633$3,624 cap$5,118 cap$10,375 cap
3$32,171$3,624 cap$5,118 cap$10,375 cap
4$48,906$3,624 cap$5,118 cap$10,375 cap


Deciding whether to take up a Home Care Package

The reality of Home Care Packages in Australia today is that the need far outweighs the supply – for some, it may be worth choosing to self- fund your home care to avoid joining the Home Care Package waiting list.

For example, if you are assessed for a Level 2 Package and are a self-funded retiree, the amount that you are asked to contribute might make up the majority of your daily package; over the course of a year, you will be asked to contribute over $10,000 of the yearly $14,000 budget.

It is worth considering the amount you will need to contribute, the urgency of your need as well as the other fees and administrative necessities that come with a Home Care Package before deciding between taking one up, or paying directly.

Care workerChoosing a Home Care Package provider

While previously, home care packages were provided by approved home care service providers on behalf of the Government, after February 2017, once you are assessed for a Home Care Package you will be placed on a government waiting list and allocated with your package directly.

Once you are allocated a package, you will still need to choose a provider to administer the funds for you – and they will charge a fee to do this. Now that consumers have the power to choose which provider will host their package, many are lowering their administration and case management fees – which historically could have been as high as 40-50% of a total home care package.

Increasingly, savvy consumers can find a provider to simply administer their funds for as little as 10%.

Do you need case management?

Once you have selected a provider to administer your funds, they will work with you to develop an individual plan that reflects how you want to spend your funding. All Home Care Packages must be “Consumer Directed” – which puts you in the driver’s seat in making choices about the types of care and services you want, and who you prefer to deliver the services.

Note that within yourAged care plan, providers may also charge you fees for Case Management and Core Advisory services. These fees can be significant and reduce the balance of funding available for purchasing services. Any provider fees and charges should be transparently discussed with you and will vary in amount from one provider to another.

If you have low level needs or the support of family members and/or advocates, you may not need large amounts of case management time.

Many providers are recognising this individuality and instead of charging a flat ‘case management fee’ (which historically could be as high as 30% of your package), are introducing ‘tiered’ options for client advice, with different price points, depending on how much support you need.

Ensuring you are only paying for the advice you need will help to stretch your home care package further.

Selecting care that’s right for you

Once you have found a provider to administer your funds, or made the choice to pay privately, it’s time to start thinking about where you can access your services from. Traditionally, those with a Home Care Package would generally access their services directly through their provider, who can charge up to $50 an hour for care.

Who you choose to have come into your home to support you is quite rightly, a very personal decision. Increasingly, under Consumer Directed Care, more people are looking elsewhere for the services they need to make sure they are the right fit, and can deliver the best value for money.

Bettercaring.com.au is Australia’s number one online marketplace for self-directed care and support. By finding and hiring care workers directly through the Better Caring platform, people can choose what services they want, who comes into their home to provide those services and what they should pay for those services.

By asking your Home Care Package provider to support you choosing an independent care worker off bettercaring.com.au, you can significantly increase the hours of care and support you receive each and every week.

It’s simple maths…

By working with a progressive provider to manage funds and hiring care workers directly through the Better Caring platform, clients are finding they can access many more hours of care and support each week – some doubling the care they can access with their existing packages.

Home Care Packages

Care Workers on the Better Caring platform are independent and set their own rates – but on average charge around $35 an hour. Consumers who have had their services supplied directly through their provider may have been paying anywhere between $40-$50 an hour – while care workers are often paid $25 or less.

Unlike traditional agencies, its low overhead model based on connecting consumers and workers directly allows savings to be shared, so that consumers pay less, while care workers can earn more.

Click here to search for care workers in your local area.