Doorstop Interview, My Aged Care hotline Call Centre
E & OE
We’re pleased to welcome Senator Mitch Fifield, the Assistant Minister for Social Services with primary responsibility for aged care and disability, to the call centre that supports the My Aged Care Gateway.
Thanks so much. It’s great to be here at the call centre with the staff of Stellar and Health Direct, who are providing a very important service through the My Aged Care gateway to Australians and their families who might have a member seeking aged care support. I know the staff who work here recognise that when they wake up in the morning, they really do have the opportunity to make a difference to the quality of life of a fellow Australian.
Today is an important day. We’re on the eve of some significant changes to aged care which come into effect on the first of July. Most importantly, through the My Aged Care website, there will now be a lot more information available for older Australians and their families looking at aged care options. Providers now have to provide information about their product offering and prices, and the My Aged Care website will mean that it’s much easier for consumers to compare products on offer from various aged care providers.
Also coming into effect on the first of July are some changes to the means testing arrangements for aged care, both residential and home care. Previously there was an assets test for accommodation, and an income test for care. From the first of July, there will be a combined means test looking at both income and assets for residential care, and an income test for home care. This will mean a fairer contribution from people for their aged care. It’s important that those who have the capacity to make a contribution do. But it’s also important that we have and maintain a safety net, so that those people of low means can continue to get the care that they want.
The first of July will also see a removal of the distinction between high care and low care, which will mean consumers will have greater choice and greater options as to the providers that they can seek aged care support from. Removing the distinction of high and low care will also mean that a lump sum can be made for high care accommodation – previously that was only an option for low care accommodation. So people will have the option of a lump sum, a daily fee or a combination of the two.
But it’s also important with these changes to recognise that there’s a lifetime cap on care contributions that people can be required to pay, of $60,000, and an annual cap for residential care of $25,000. And for home care, for part pensioners a cap of $5,000 a year, and for self-funded retirees, $10,000 a year.
So the changes from the first of July are about greater choice for consumers as to where they can seek support, also greater choice as to how they seek to make payment for their support. But there is still a social safety net which is an important part of our aged care system.
Senator Fifield you took a call this morning, who were you speaking to and what was their response to the changes?
I had a chat this morning to June Smyth, who lives in Queensland. June’s brother was interested in what the options were for him, looking at possibly some greater home care support. June got on the website, found that it was clear and straight-forward. June also made contact with the call centre staff, and was very happy with the experience that she had.
That’s what we want – to have an aged care system where information is very accessible, and where it’s easier for people to navigate. Anyone who’s had a family member who needs aged care knows that it’s a complex system to navigate. What we want is the My Aged Care website and call centre to make what is often a difficult time for families that little bit easier.
Does the McClure report make way possibly for the streamlining of welfare payments, depending on NDIS payments?
It’s important to recognise that the Disability Support Pension and the NDIS are two separate arrangements. The Disability Support Pension is income support. The National Disability Insurance Scheme provides non-income supports – aids and equipment and personal attendant care – things of that sort. So they’re two different schemes, two different purposes and two different sets of eligibility criteria. But where there is a link between the NDIS and the Disability Support Pension is, if people get the daily living support they need, if they get the equipment they need, if they get the personal attendant care they need, then a lot of people are going to be in a lot better position to contemplate entering the workforce.
And how do you respond to criticisms that some of the NDIS payments are possibly being wasted?
I don’t think NDIS payments are being wasted. The great thing about the NDIS is that it puts the individual at the centre and in charge. An individual has their need assessed, they’re given an entitlement commensurate to their needs – whether it be for equipment or personal attendant care – and the individual gets to direct that entitlement to the service provider of their choice. It’s important to have the individual with disability at the centre and in charge, because they’re in the best position to know where their dollars are best spend.
Just in terms of 1 July tomorrow, do you think people are better off or worse off?
I think people in the NDIS trial sites that commenced a year ago are in a better position than they were twelve months ago. But it’s important to recognise that the trial sites are just that. Part of the purpose of the trial sites is to learn lessons, to make adjustments, before we move to full scheme. So there’ll be difficulties along the way in the trial sites, but the important thing is to learn the lessons and make adjustments.