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Home Care Packages and CHSP: what’s the difference?

Staying at Home Lifestyle Wellbeing
26 October 2020

Many of us want to stay living in our own home for as long as we can – and often we may just need a bit of support to do so.

Asking for help doesn’t mean losing your independence; in fact it’s quite the opposite. Getting some extra support means you can stay independent in your home for longer and can often lead to a much better life.

If you’re interested in getting some home care, you’ve likely heard of the terms ‘Home Care Package’ and ‘Commonwealth Home Support Program.’

Both options have the same overall objective: to help older Australians to continue living independently in their own homes. However, they each incorporate different levels of support and have different eligibility criteria and payment systems.

So, what’s the difference, and what option is best for you?

Commonwealth Home Support Programme

The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) is funded by the Australian Government and is an entry-level program that aims to:

  • help people live as independently as possible
  • focus on working with people to do things for themselves, rather than doing things for them
  • give a small amount of home care assistance to a large number of people.

Most people in the CHSP only need one or two services to help them stay independent. These services can include things like:

  • help around the house
  • transport to and from appointments
  • meal preparation
  • personal care
  • home modifications
  • social support
  • nursing and allied health
  • planned respite care.

If you’re having trouble with everyday tasks and feel that a little support could improve your health and wellbeing, CHSP could be right for you.

Eligibility for this program is based on your age and support needs as determined through a face-to-face assessment by a government assessor. You can check if you meet the requirements for the CHSP on the My Aged Care website, or if you’re ready, you can apply for an assessment now.

If your CHSP assessment is approved, you will need to select a service provider to deliver the services you need. There are around 1400 CHSP providers in Australia, including IRT Group. The service provider must work with you to develop a care plan based on your needs, support you to continue doing things yourself if you’re able to, review support services every 12 months, and meet the Aged Care Quality Standards.

The Australian Government provides the bulk of the funding for CHSP, but you may be asked to pay a contribution or fee for the services you receive if you can afford to do so. You will not be asked to cover the full cost of services, and any fees must be agreed on before you start receiving the services.

Home Care Packages

The Home Care Packages (HCP) program is also funded by the Australian Government and provides support to older people with more complex care needs that go beyond what the CHSP can provide.  

As everyone’s care needs are different, there are four levels of packages available and assigned by the Australian Government:

  • Level 1 – basic care needs
  • Level 2 – low care needs
  • Level 3 – intermediate care needs
  • Level 4 – high care needs

Packages are assigned based on your needs and living circumstances. Depending on the package level and funds you receive, you can get access to a range of different services. These can include:

  • Services to keep you well and independent – such as personal care, nursing services and allied health
  • Services to keep you safe in your own home – such as cleaning, home maintenance and modifications, gardening and assistive technology
  • Services to keep you connected to your community – such as transport and social support services.

You may be eligible for a HCP if you have:

  • noticed a change in what you can do or remember
  • been diagnosed with a medical condition or reduced mobility
  • experienced a change in family care arrangements, or
  • experienced a recent fall or hospital admission.

You can check if you meet the requirements for a HCP assessment on the government’s website or if you’re ready, you can apply for an assessment now.

After you have been assessed as being eligible, it can take some time before the government assigns you a HCP, and the waiting time depends on what package you’re eligible for.

For Level 1 packages, the approximate wait time is anywhere between three and six months, whereas for Level 2 – 4 packages, the wait time is typically 12 months or more. How urgently someone needs services can also impact how long it may take to receive a HCP, and those with higher or more urgent needs are usually prioritised.

Once you’re allocated a HCP, the next step is to choose a provider, such as IRT Group. They will work with you to decide on the care and services that best suits your needs and how your HCP funds will be spent.

Each HCP level attracts a different subsidy; that is the monetary value of the package as determined by the government. You’ll be expected to contribute to the cost of your care if you can afford it. Your contribution is made up of different types of fees which are paid directly to the home care provider:

  1. Basic daily fee – every home care recipient can be asked to pay this. It’s based on your HCP level and capped at 17.5% of the Full Single Aged Pension.

  2. Income-tested care fee – this is an additional fee that some people pay if their income is over the maximum income for a full pensioner. It’s determined through a formal income assessment and the government will inform your chosen provider if you are required to pay this. Full pensioners do not pay an income-tested care fee.

  3. Administration fee / package management – this covers the administrative costs of providing home care services to you. These fees differ between providers and are typically calculated as a percentage of your overall package funds.

  4. Care management fee – when you’re allocated a HCP, you will have a Care Manager assigned to you to help you navigate the My Aged Care system, develop and maintain your care plan, organise additional services or purchases for you, liaise with your family and decision makers, and coordinate the timing of your home care services. The care management fee contributes to your individual care management visits and regular contacts with your Care Manager. Some providers include this in their administration fees, whereas others keep it separate.

  5. Other fees – this includes any other amount you have agreed to pay for extra care and services that wouldn’t otherwise be covered by your HCP. For example, you can use your HCP funds to have a home care worker do your grocery shopping for you. However, you can’t use the HCP funds to buy your actual groceries. Instead, you may agree to give your home care worker $50 to pay for these items. Other fees may also include establishment/set up fees and exit fees.

Some people decide to pay for private home care services rather than a Government funded home care service. This could be for a number of reasons – you may not be eligible for a HCP, or you don’t want to wait for care.

If you decide to pay for private home care services, you will not receive a government subsidy for the care services. It’s also important that you understand the costs and fees involved with paying for private services before you make a decision. Remember, it’s always best to get independent legal and financial advice.

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