End of the ACH era
Changes to federal funding for the Assistance with Care and Housing, as well as the Aged Care System Navigator, will effect what services will be delivered to older renters and people at risk of homelessness.
Aged Care System Navigator trial comes to an end
In 2018, HAAG became one of the “trial sites” for a new program to assist older people to connect with My Aged Care, by providing one-on-one support and information sessions to the public about the aged care system, what’s available and how to access it. This was part of a national trial, led by COTA Australia, and HAAG was the only trial site that had a focus on people at risk of homelessness. We used our team of bilingual volunteers to reach vulnerable older people and had great success in connecting many people with services who would not otherwise have known where to go for help.
In 2020 the trial was extended, and based on an evaluation of the service, shifted focus away from information sessions to the general public towards more intensive and tailored support for people who were “falling through the gaps” – especially people from non-English speaking backgrounds, people without secure housing and people who have experienced past trauma. Our System Navigator service consistently went above and beyond all the other trial sites in the country by reaching some of the most vulnerable people through targeted information and working closely with our housing support service.
In the last year, our service had a higher number of “band 3” – that is, the people with the highest needs – than any other site. We assisted 180 older people, their families and carers to navigate the complicated aged care system – 145 people came through our Home at Last service, and 22 came through our bilingual volunteers – meaning that most people supported were either from CALD backgrounds or at risk of homelessness.
On 31 December 2022, the Aged Care System Navigator trial comes to an end. A new “carefinder” service will take its place, and who receives funding to do this important work will be decided by the Primary Health Networks, commissioned by the Federal Government.
Despite our proven success in delivering this service, and reaching the most vulnerable people to connect them with aged care and other supports, we may not receive more funding to do this work (although we retain our existing ACH funding - see below).
Assistance with Care and Housing funding to be redirected
The other program that is finishing and being replaced by the new “carefinder” service is the long-standing and successful Assistance with Care and Housing (ACH) program. This program has been running since the 1990s and has consistently provided support to older people at risk of homelessness to access and maintain their housing. Existing ACH providers, like HAAG, will become “carefinders” and have the same amount of funding “guaranteed” until the middle of 2025. But the focus of the new service is not housing and homelessness but aged care. We have spent the last year fighting hard to keep the housing focus in the new guidelines, but we have grave fears that this will be lost as new providers with no experience in housing and homelessness come in, and long-term providers are leaving. The Department will no longer directly fund the progam as it has commissioned the Primary Health Networks to support the new program, and they are making the decision on who is funded and who is not.
At a time when the housing crisis for older people is getting worse, it does not seem like a good idea to dismantle long running and successful programs that support older people at risk of homelessness. But only time will tell.