Reprieve for home care services


By Sahar Foladi

The City of Greater Dandenong Council has extended its Aged and Disability Care Service program until 2027.

At a council meeting on Monday 25 March, councillors voted to continue delivering subsidised services such as house-cleaning, delivered meals and home repairs, subject to expected contract extensions with the State and Commonwealth Governments.

“The bulk of Council’s Aged Care services, provided to the largest proportion of our clients, will transition to the new Support at Home model in July 2027, rather than July 2025 as expected,” the Council website read following the council meeting.

“The reforms represent significant change to the funding and structure of the future contracts for these services, which prompted (Greater Dandenong Council) to re-consider our role and how best Council can support residents to continue to live connected, healthy lives into the future.”

While the residents in need of the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) and Home and Community Care Program (HACCP-PYP) services may be in the clear now, the council is yet to decide on its approach when new reforms play out from July 2027.

Following reforms announced by the government, City of Greater Dandenong Council had conducted a “deliberative engagement process” on their services in the field.

The detailed report contained feedback and recommendations from the Community Engagement Program making up a panel of 42 residents.

One of the random-selected panelists was former mayor Roz Blades, who ironically led the council’s foray back into home aged-care services.

Now receiving council home-care services herself, Ms Blades was disappointed that the council didn’t make a long-term commitment to an “absolutely brilliant” program.

“I’m not reliant on the service but without it, it would make life more difficult.

“The funding has been extended but there’s no commitment to keep the service. It’s subject to whether state government funding continues.

“The council offers a brilliant service, the staff are great, it’s affordable and the residents absolutely love it. We’ve got the highest amount of people using the service in the South East. If it goes, it’s a question of whether people can afford to pay for the services.

Greater Dandenong could follow the lead of some other councils such as City of Kingston, which had adopted “successful” models to continue their in-home services, Ms Blades said.

Along, with the extension of the current contract, the report passed in the council meeting also asked council officers to “develop a comprehensive business case and cost modelling for Council consideration of a future navigation and support system.”

“Council directed officers to monitor the development of the local competitive market of alternate service providers and report back to Council for consideration of whether to seek approval as a provider under the competitive market-based Support at Home Programme.

“Council also directed officers to prepare a business case and cost modelling for a new “Navigation and Support” system, to help older people navigate the aged care sector.

“The panel’s report is valuable, but the urgency to decide whether to join the Support at Home programme and/or exit some services has significantly reduced with the Commonwealth’s changed timeline. Council now has more time to monitor the rollout of the reforms, before re-considering the recommendations of the deliberative panel.”

In response to the reforms, councils such as the neighbouring City of Casey have already outsourced its in-home services and family day care services.

Greater Dandenong’s client base (2,900) represents 11.5 per cent of residents aged over the age of 65.

The new Yarraman ward Councillor Phillip Danh, had this issue as the epicentre for his election campaign.

However he had to leave the council chambers due to a declared conflict of interest, being a close relative of his working in the industry with the council.

“Prior to the meeting I was advised of a potential conflict of interest. I believe it is important to be transparent about such conflicts, and I am currently working to further determine how I can proceed in a manner which is appropriate.

“In regard to the future of Home Care, I have a deeply principled view that council has an important role to play in providing these human services,” he said.

“This program is essential to people in my community and any future plans must consider their needs as a matter of urgency and priority.”