The Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 1) Bill 2020 and Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 2) Bill 2020 amend the ways home care subsidies are paid to home care approved providers.
The Government estimates around $750 million in unspent funds is currently held by providers. By changing the way providers receive home care subsidies and allowing the Government to hold unspent funds, these bills will introduce additional accountability and transparency to home care funding. Improved financial accountability and transparency is critical to ensuring our aged care system better serves the needs of older Australians.
The Australian Greens share some of the concerns raised by stakeholders during the inquiry.
The Australian Greens echo the concerns raised by the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills regarding Item 16 of Schedule 1 which includes a power for delegated legislation to modify primary legislation and can be applied retrospectively. This item would allow delegated legislation to make substantive amendments to primary legislation. This is concerning as it could impact on the level of parliamentary scrutiny. It is also concerning because this power could operate retrospectively.
The Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians had not responded to the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills in time for the reporting of this inquiry. As a result, the Australian Greens will be seeking reassurance from the Minister regarding the application of Item 16 of Bill No. 2 during the debate on this bill.
The Australian Greens share concerns raised by COTA Australia that these changes must not adversely impact on the outcomes for older people and their families. The Australian Greens will be seeking assurances from the Minister that these bills will not result in providers passing on additional fees and charges for older Australians accessing home care packages.
The Government has stated that home care providers who have concerns about the impact of these changes on their financial viability will be eligible for transition support funding and business advisory supports. The Australian Greens will be monitoring this process closely; we do not want to see any aged care providers failing because of poor transition processes.
The administrative changes introduced by these bills will require changes to software and business systems both from providers and the Government. The Australian Greens urge the Government to have a robust transition plan in place to ensure there are no disruptions to service delivery and no older Australians are left disadvantaged by these changes.
Finally, and most importantly, while these bills introduce important changes to the administration of home care funding, they do not address the urgent need for additional home care packages.
The Australian Greens recommend that the Government act immediately to ensure that the home care package waiting list is cleared by 31 December 2021 to ensure all Australians who need it have access to their approved home care package and that the system from that date is demand driven.