A benefit to help ageing parents get home-delivered meals, cleaning and more

Depending on eligibility, assessment and other criteria, the Home Care Package helps pay for a range of services to help people keep living at home for longer.

Meet the Home Care Package, an Australian Government benefit that has been boosted with 24,100 extra places from 1 July this year. Here’s what you need to know to apply and what you’ll need to contribute if your parents or loved ones are eligible.

By Allison Tait

When you’ve been cooking every night for decades, nothing makes you prick your ears up more than a TV ad suggesting dinner could be delivered to your door at an affordable price.

If you’re like me and still feeding older kids living at home while trying to cook extra nutritious meals for your parents to give them a helping hand, then you’ll probably also have noticed the latest Lite ‘N Easy TV ads mentioning that people on Home Care Packages can access their meals at a 70% discount.

The idea of outsourcing a bit of help for Mum and Dad (and maybe me, too) has great appeal. 

So what is a Home Care Package and how can I get my Mum and Dad signed up? Read on to find out more about what’s on offer (besides meals).

Home Care Packages help older people live at home independently

A Home Care Package can include anything from gardening and cleaning assistance, to meal preparation, to help with self-care and nursing support.

Usually it’s only for people over the age of 65  and – like all government benefits – these packages have strict eligibility and assessment criteria.

If you are on a low income, homeless or at risk of being homeless, and aged 50 years or older (45 years or older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), you can call the My Aged Care contact centre on 1800 200 422 to discuss your situation because you might be eligible for some help. 

Use the My Aged Care assessment eligibility checker online tool to see if you or your parents can apply.

Think about Home Care Packages as a personalised bundle of services designed to fit specific, assessed needs across 4 different levels:

  • Level 1 for basic care needs
  • Level 2 for low-level care needs
  • Level 3 for intermediate care needs
  • Level 4 for high-level care needs

You can get services for getting out and staying social, temporary help, staying well or making a home more liveable

You’ll need an assessment before you can get a Home Care Package

What people get as part of their Home Care Package will depend on what they really need - and the assessment will determine that.

For instance, someone on a level 1 package might get help with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and meal preparation, housework, and laundry, while those on a level 4 package might need nursing or even clinical care as well.

Find more about the differences between Home Care Package levels on the My Aged Care website.

It's worth noting, what’s not included in a Home Care Package.

You can’t, for instance, put the funds towards food, general house upkeep, beauty therapy, household bills, mortgage repayments or renovations. 

Any services already funded by the government, such as medical care, prescription glasses, hearing services and more are also ineligible. There’s a full list of exclusions from Home Care Packages on the Health Department website.

Home Care Packages help support people to live in their homes independently for longer - and 24,100 more will be available in the new financial year.

You’ll have to pay for your Home Care Package, too

Depending on your eligibility, the Australian Government contributes daily subsidy rates ranging from $28.14 for level 1 up to $163.27 for level 4.

If you (or more likely your parents or other loved ones) successfully get a Home Care Package, you will get a budget to pay for the services you need but you must contribute as well. That’s part of the deal.  

Your contribution (or the fees you might have to pay), include your basic daily fee , your income-tested care fee (based on an income assessment), and any additional fees you agree to pay.

It’s complicated. The basic daily fee ranges from $11.43 (level 1) to $12.75 (level 4), and is set by the government as a percentage of the single basic Age Pension. It changes in March and September each year, in line with the Age Pension.

An income-tested care fee is an extra contribution that some people pay, and it’s determined through an income assessment. Age pensioners and people with an income up to $32,819.80 do not pay an income-tested care fee.

As an example, a single person earning over $32,819.20 a year might pay up to $13.30 extra per day. A single person earning over $63,351.60 could pay between $18.30 and $36.60.

Read how to calculate your Income tested care fee on the My Aged Care website.  

Once your fees are calculated and your subsidy added, the resulting total budget or funds will be used to cover your care services as well as the package management costs from your Home Care Package provider, who helps co-ordinate and administer your package.

The 2019 aged care royal commission created new rules around the administration fees charged by Home Care Package providers, so you should be able to easily compare the different fees charged by different providers. 

Make sure you understand the fees and charges before you sign any contract. If you want some help with the contract, you can find an advocate through the National Aged Care Advocacy Program. Organisations like the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) also provide free advocacy services.

Remember, too, that you can change Home Care Package providers at any time – but keep an eye on exit fees if you do decide to switch. Not all providers charge them, but they can be hefty so read this explainer from The Conversation.  

Okay, sign me up (aka, how do I access a Home Care Package?)

Once you’ve checked you (or your loved one) meets the eligibility criteria (either through the link above or a phone call with My Aged Care) you’ll be referred for an assessment to determine the level of care and services you may need.

After your assessment, you’ll receive your results and a support plan for any eligible services.  

After July 1 2024, there will be a single assessment for all aged care programs.

The Department of Health and Aged Care says this new process will streamline home care, residential care (like nursing homes), transition care (which helps you recover after a hospital stay), multi-purpose services and respite care.  

How long does getting a Home Care Package take?

Don’t expect your Home Care Package to begin the next day. Packages are allocated via a national priority system, based on the date of approval and priority for care.

Right now, and according to My Aged Care, people with a ‘medium’ priority have an expected wait time for an approved Home Care Package of less than one month for level 1, 3-6 months for level 2, 12-15 months for level 3 and 6-9 months of Level 4. 

So if you’ve been thinking that maybe, just maybe, you’re getting to a stage where you or someone you know might need some help to stay at home and live a healthy, independent life, don’t put it off!

The sooner you start the assessment process, the better, even with those 24,100 new Home Care Packages on offer.

Read more on Citro about caring for others

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