Funding for vitamins and supplements for pensioners on home care packages has been removed after “clarifications” on how the Commonwealth funds the expanding program.
Anne Gell, 78, says her home care package provider informed her of the changes to the funding of her vitamins
The ABC has spoken to several home care package providers who confirmed vitamins have previously been funded under the arrangements
A Department of Health spokesperson says these items have never been in scope for the program, and there have been no recent policy changes
Expansions to the program, in the wake of last year’s Royal Commission into Aged Care, are under review, which has led to a re-examination of what’s been funded in the packages.
Anne Gell lives in Bairnsdale, in south-east Victoria.
The 78-year-old, who has a brain tumour, fears her health will be worse off because she cannot afford the doctor-recommended vitamins on her aged pension.
“Doctors have recommended the fish supplement and the magnesium supplement, but we’re no longer entitled to have that,” Ms Gell said.
“Like every regular pensioner, you’re budgeting for everything that you do, but when these things are taken away from you, you can’t afford to buy them.”
The ABC has spoken to several home care package providers who have confirmed vitamins have previously been funded under the arrangements.
“It’s not good enough for me, and it’s not good enough for them.”
Clarifications on grey areas
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report, released in May, found not just shocking deficiencies in the residential aged care system but also ballooning wait times for home care packages.
The Department of Health has been consulting the industry ahead of fixes proposed in the royal commission, funded in last year’s federal budget.
Ahead of the sweeping changes that will simplify the home care package program and expand it to 80,000 more Australians, a slew of clarifications on what can and can’t be funded in a home care package have been issued.
Ms Gell’s home care package provider, Latrobe Community Health Service, informed her of the changes to the funding of her vitamins — just one of many clarifications — in January this year.
The current home care package provider manual, issued in September 2021, excludes food from being funded by home care providers. In its December 2021 advice, seen by the ABC, the Department of Health has told home care providers vitamins and supplements are excluded and will also be added to the exclusion list.
Latrobe Community Health Service Aged and Community Care executive director of Alison Skeldon said advice to the industry had made many grey areas black and white.
“Since the royal commission, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission has given far more guidance on how they would like all home care package providers [like Latrobe Community Health Service] to deliver home care packages to community members,” she said.
A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed revisions of the home care package manual were underway.
“Consultation on the revised [home care] manual has occurred over recent months,” the spokesperson said.
“The revised manual is expected to be released to the whole sector shortly.”
While they were not explicitly excluded in the manual, the spokesperson said vitamins and supplements should never have been covered under current legislation.
The department has been working closely with the sector and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to clarify inclusions and exclusions under the program.”
An Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission spokesperson said its job was to advise on compliance, not set nor change standards.
He said the Department of Health, not the commission, determined the scope for funding of home care packages.