DHS reverts to manual processing of aged care assessments

The Department of Human Services has reverted to manually processing income and assessment determination letters for elderly people entering residential aged care.

The Herald Sun is reporting that it has seen an internal DHS memo showing that approximately 10,000 means testing assessments were outstanding in both residential and home care programs due to problems with Centrelink's aged care management payment system.

Changes to aged care assessments came into force on July 1 as part of the former Labor government's Living Longer Living Better aged care reform package, most of which has been continued by the Coalition government.

The changes mean that any person moving into residential aged care for the first time will have their income and assets assessed by DHS. A determination letter is then sent to the applicant informing them what fee they will be asked to pay, as well as to the aged care provider.

However, according to peak body Leading Age Services Australia's (LASA) Victoria branch, since the new system took effect on July 1, the organisation's members had seen escalating delays in receiving completed assessments.

LASA Victoria president Ingrid Williams said that as a result, the provider has no information about what fee to apply to the required care and the older person and their family were left not knowing what they will need to contribute.

“Therefore, the older person cannot be admitted into care and is left in limbo during an often highly emotional time of their lives,” Ms Williams said.

“These unacceptable bureaucratic delays in critical information and subsequent care admissions are a direct result of the Centrelink system’s failure to deal with the recent changes.”

She said the survey also revealed that of those declined a place in residential care, over 80 per cent included referrals from hospitals.

“Without the ability for hospitals to discharge elderly patients into residential care, they remain in hospital, which begins to create a problem of ‘bed blocking’.”

Ms Williams said that in a recent survey of one third of all provider organisations across the state, almost 70 per cent of respondents reported they have declined to fill a vacancy since July 1 due to a delayed Centrelink assessment. This had affected over 370 elderly people, she said.

DHS general manager Hank Jorgen said the department was aware there had been delays in the automatic generation of assessment letters and was urgently working to resolve the issue.

“A number of the system issues have now been fixed and an increasing number of letters are now being generated automatically,” Mr Jorgen said.

“The Department of Human Services has established a dedicated team to manually generate and issue the determination letters where required.

“Many letters advising the outcome of means tests have been sent out and the team will remain in place to ensure all letters are sent to customers as soon as possible.

“The department is continuing to prioritise urgent cases and work through all of the assessments on hand as quickly as possible.”

He said that contrary to some media reports, the changes to the income asset assessment arrangements were incorporated into the department’s systems ahead of the July 1 change.

“If a delay in providing a letter is causing inconvenience, or if someone is in the position of urgently needing to access aged care, recipients or their nominee should contact us on 1800 227 475 as soon as possible,” he said.

“We sincerely apologise to affected customers and thank them for their ongoing patience whilst this issue is being resolved.”

Posted in Aged Care

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