Originally written by JULIE GRIFFITHS
ELDERLY Glenelg shire residents face the prospect of severely reduced home care services due to increased demands, escalating costs and a “failure of federal government funding to keep pace” with growth levels.
Glenelg shire Mayor Cr Geoff White said the council was struggling to maintain its home and community care (HACC) service and he called on the Federal Government to change its aged care funding formula to give HACC “a fair share” of the budget.
The council provides HACC services, which includes home maintenance, to more than 1500 aged and disabled residents.
However, Cr White said 20 residents, recently assessed as eligible for the service, were unable to be assisted due to the funding shortfall.
“We have had to implement a waiting list with an average waiting time of 12 months, which is continuing to grow,” he said.
“This is clearly inadequate in supporting our frail older people to remain in their own homes with comfort and dignity for as long as possible.
“While we are making every effort to reduce the impact on our elderly in the community, unless the current government funding arrangements are rectified, there will come a time when the council will have to severely curtail the services we can provide.”
Cr White said the council had decided to take up the “funding fight” with the Federal Government and candidates in the federal election.
The council expressed concern that Victoria received a HACC funding increase of only 3.6 per cent in 2001, while other states received an increase as high as six per cent.
Cr White said the government’s failure to keep pace with growth levels meant the council was forced to increase its rates to fund the HACC service.
“The amount of money local government has to find through increased rates in order to keep home and community care services afloat is totally unacceptable,” he said.
“With an ageing population we are finding it increasingly difficult to meet today’s demand, let alone the future … increases we face.”
A spokeswoman for Federal Member for Wannon David Hawker said Victoria’s 3.6 per cent increase, compared with higher increases in other states, was part of a move to provide equitable funds across the states.
She said the annual Victorian funding per HACC eligible person was $709, compared with the national average of $588. However, the government was moving towards an equal figure for all states.
When asked by the Portland Observer what Mr Hawker would do to help reduce Glenelg Shire’s 12 month waiting list for HACC services, the spokeswoman replied: “The Coalition will continue to give high priority to community care. It’s election policy on community care is yet to be released.”
Commonwealth funding for the Victorian HACC program in 2001 was $167.3 million. State government funding was $111.7 million.