By Sally Aurisch and Kristin Nuske
Amid all the publicity, positive and negative, around the National Disability Insurance Scheme, many readers are struggling to find an answer to their most urgent question: “what happens to me if I’m over 65”? Sally Aurisch and Kristin Nuske, who’ve both worked closely with My Aged Care participants and providers, offer some much-needed clarity around how this system will impact on people who are blind or vision impaired.
My Aged Care is the main entry point to the Aged Care system in Australia. It is a government program which provides information and referrals to older Australians. It helps them access services and supports that are required to continue to live independently at home, or, if necessary, move into a facility that provides a higher level of care.
My Aged Care is available to Australians who are over the age of 65, and to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are over the age of 50. While My Aged Care is not specifically designed to support people with disability, older people with disabilities who don’t meet the age eligibility requirements for the National Disability Insurance Scheme are now expected to access disability-related support under this scheme.
To begin receiving support through My Aged Care, you must first call the Contact Centre for an initial screening assessment. The Contact Centre will then refer you for a further face-to-face assessment, which will generally take place in your home. It is advisable to have a friend or family member with you during your assessment. They may be able to provide additional information to the assessor that you had not been aware of. We recommend you discuss any thoughts or concerns you both have prior to your meeting, to ensure you are both on the same page and you are in the best position to receive the assistance you require.
There are two ways you can receive support through My Aged Care; through an Entry Level Package called Commonwealth Home Support Program, or through a Home Care Package. The type of package you are referred for will vary depending on your needs.
An Entry Level Package will enable you to access a variety of mainstream services that can assist you with tasks such as home maintenance, cleaning, community transport, cooking and grocery shopping. There is generally no waiting time between when you are made eligible to receive services under an Entry Level Package and when services commence.
You will choose service providers from a list of identified service providers available in your local area, and you will make a financial contribution towards these services if you are able to. It is now a requirement of My Aged Care that all service providers publish a list of their fees and charges. You should read these carefully before signing up with any provider, to ensure that you make the most of your package.
If you are made eligible for a Home Care Package, you will be allocated a set amount of funding, as defined by your level of needs. There are four levels of Home Care Package, basic, low, medium and high. You will be supported to write a care plan, a document that contains a series of goals. You will use your allocated funding to help you achieve these goals.
A Home Care package offers you more flexibility. You can choose where you receive your services from, and use your funds towards expenses for assistive technology or a dog guide if required, as long as your expenses fit within your allocated budget.
There are only a set number of Home Care Packages available at each level at any one time. This means that unlike the Entry Level Package, although you may be eligible for services, you may have to wait until a package is available, or you may receive a lower level package until one at the level you require is available. During your wait, you may be able to continue to receive services through the Entry Level Package.
A Home Care Package also enables you to access the services of a Case Manager, who can support you to write your care plan and assist you to source the services you require. A Case Manager is an additional cost that will be taken from your Home Care Package. Case Managers are not essential; you can manage your package yourself if you choose.
BCA acknowledges that there are significant inequalities between the support available to people who are blind or vision impaired under the NDIS and that which is available through My Aged Care. We are lobbying for three urgent changes which we believe are vital to ensuring a fair and just system.
These changes include:
- Improving equity between the NDIS and My Aged Care systems;
- Abolishing co-payments for disability specific supports in My Aged Care, and
- Making sure that people who have been blind for a long time who will be over 65 at the time of NDIS roll-out have the right to sign up to the NDIS.
We strongly believe that all people who are blind or vision impaired should receive the same level of support, regardless of their age. We have been proactively advocating for change on these issues through our policy and advocacy work, and will continue to do so into the future.
In October 2018, the Terms of Reference were released for a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. The Royal Commission is accepting submissions until June 2019. Though BCA is preparing a submission, we encourage you to make your own submission online, describing sub-standard service delivery you’re aware of, or suggesting changes to the Aged Care system.
Our website has recently been updated with significant changes to the Support for Over 65’s page, including a series of new fact sheets on My Aged Care that cover a variety of topics.
And BCA’s Support Linkages Officer, Kristin Nuske, can now provide one-on-one assistance to members with pre-planning, support them in meetings and assessments, and help resolve issues with the My Aged Care Contact Centre. Please be aware that due to the national reach of this service, it can only be provided via telephone and email.
We also encourage all members to continue to provide feedback on My Aged Care to BCA. Your experiences will directly influence the work that we do in this area. To give feedback or get help accessing My Aged Care, call BCA on 1800 033 660, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To get in touch with the My Aged Care Contact Centre, please call 1800 200 422.