Many Australians are unaware of the support the government offers and how to find the right home care provider so they can remain living in the homes and communities they love, and stay connected to the friends, family and life they love.

If you or a loved one has been assigned or approved for a Home Care Package, it’s really important to know how Consumer Directed Care can empower the individual and their family to choose a home care provider that best suits them. This may be from the point of view of wanting a better service, better value or a tailored care plan that best meets physical, emotional and cultural needs.

What is Consumer Directed Care?

Consumer Directed Care is one of the most significant and beneficial changes the government has made to home care funding. It is an approach to the planning and management of home care that empowers the individual and their carers. It allows you to exercise a greater degree of choice in what services are delivered, where and when they are delivered.

It also means much more than just choosing from a list of services; people can ask for services that a provider doesn’t necessarily offer so long as they help them live independently, safely and well. Some people may prioritise having a clean home or taking their medication, others want help to exercise and socialise. Some may have special language or cultural needs.

This means providers are required to:

have conversations with you about your care needs and personal goals work with you to co-produce a care plan that meets your goals provide greater transparency to you about what funding is available under your package and how those funds are spent agree with you on the level of involvement you will have in managing your package conduct ongoing monitoring and a formal reassessment to ensure that the package and plan continue to be appropriate.

Importantly, providers do not own the Home Care Package or dollars, the individual does.

Previously, Consumer Directed Care packages were allocated to providers by the government through a bidding process. People were independently assessed by an ACAT assessor and approved for a package, depending on their need (Levels 1-4). The individual would then have to ring providers to see if they had matching packages available.

This disjointed approach meant many were left taking a lower level package from a provider that they didn’t necessarily want to use.

You’re in control of the dollars,can choose your provider and can define the care and help you want.

So, how do you choose a provider? Here are four points to consider when making the switch.

  1. List what you need - List the things you’re looking for in your help and care. These may relate to the carers themselves (gender, language, culture, consistency), availability (day, weekend or evening service), or range of service provided (physiotherapy, occupational therapy, gardening). Some providers offer certain services more flexibly and cheaply than others.

  2. Find out what’s available nearby - Identify providers in your area by calling My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or by using the search function on the website. It also pays to ask around. Friends and family who have had experience with care providers may be able to give you useful tips and insights.

  3. Compare providers - Don’t be afraid to interview and look at the differences between providers. Remember, the funding is yours to direct and control; you’re within your rights to spend it wisely. Here are some points to discuss with each provider.

    • Admin fees – how much the provider charges for administration and case management fees can vary widely; the hourly rates for cleaning, personal care, allied health visits etc.; average percentage of government subsidy available for clients to spend and ask for an example of a monthly statement to see how clear it is and how it shows accrual of unspent funds.
    • Staff – whether service providers employ their own staff or use agency staff; the level of training of their care coordinators (some have university degrees, others might have minimal training); and the level of training of their care staff (some require Certificate III or Certificate IV, others might have speciality training in dementia).
    • Communication and relationships – how often carers will visit and speak with clients; how regularly care plans are reviewed; and how service providers ensure you will get consistent care workers.
  4. Exit fees - Check your existing home care agreement so you understand any exit fees your current provider may charge.

A few other things to remember…

All Home Care Packages are 100 per cent portable

Simply put, you can choose who you want to deliver your care and move to them. Sadly, many people are persisting with care they are not happy with; you don’t have to do this anymore because you can choose. You’re now in control and you can change to a new provider whenever you like – just make sure you’ve done your homework first!

You can change providers without financial penalty

There is a provision for providers to charge ‘exit fees’ if you want to change. This fee can only be deducted from the Home Care Package and only if the package is in surplus. If you do want to change, ask for a statement of your package and check if there are any funds unspent before agreeing to an exit fee. You should also check your current home care agreement to see if there is a provision to charge an exit fee. If not, then you can move without any financial penalty.

You cannot lose a package once you are eligible and it has been allocated to you

Sadly, there are some stories of care providers telling people who want to change to another provider that they will lose their government funding. This is not true. Once you have a package assigned and you have accepted it by choosing a provider, it is yours. Use it wisely and ensure you get the help and care you want and deserve.

Family is important

Throughout this process, always remember to include the family. In many situations, family members and friends are intimately and lovingly involved in helping and providing care. These people are often excluded from the current processes and deserve to be kept informed and in touch. If you’re organising care for a loved one, make sure you find a provider who understands this.

What to remember

Consumer Directed Care – please make sure you understand what you’re eligible for and ensure you’re getting the help and care you need. You deserve to have care that is delivered in a manner and way you like. Use this information to ensure your help and care services are fitting around you and your life – not the other way around!