Filling out forms for aged care is getting simpler, funding major reforms not so much

By Stephen Easton

Thursday April 4, 2019

In the Australian aged care system, simplifying the complex forms people have to fill out falls to the members of the Aged Care Forms Taskforce; this is their story. 

From May, pensioners who do not own a home will no longer have to fill out a means-testing form to prove their entitlement to publicly funded aged care services, and others have to answer far fewer questions than before thanks to “months of hard work” by the team, reports Human Services Minister Michael Keenan.

There’s usually about 110,000 people every year who fall into the group that receive a pension or another support payment and will no longer need to complete the forms, according to the minister, although the numbers are presumably rising each year.

At least 70,000 more will need to complete forms so the government can determine their level of entitlement to financial support, but it won’t take them as long:

“Those with straightforward financial affairs will be offered a new short form that is just a few pages long, while those with complex affairs will only have to answer about half the number of the questions they previously had to.”

Much could be done to improve the heavily bureaucratic aged care system and the lives of older Australians, as the current royal commission has been hearing. Both consumer advocates and providers have been crying out for serious reform for years, and there’s been plenty of inquiries and reviews to guide a government brave enough to work out how to extract the funding that would be required from the electorate.

Last year’s federal budget funded 42 measures to improve the lot of the ageing and the elderly, which involve 10 federal departments working together, and a few small additions appear in the new economic plan for 2019-20.

Fixing the forms may seem trivial in comparison but it all helps and, as Keenan explains, people were asking for this.

“We acknowledge that entering aged care can be a difficult and complex process to navigate at what is often a highly emotional time for people and their families,” the minister said.

“We’ve listened to feedback from customers going through this process who’ve told us the current paper forms are lengthy, confusing and take a long time to complete. The new forms remove the complexity and will take around half the time to complete — a major achievement.”

The taskforce is a multi-stakeholder group, Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt explained this week, including people from the government, consumer groups, aged care providers and financial advisers.

“I congratulate the taskforce on the work they have done, which will be benefit everyone involved in the aged care sector,” said Wyatt.

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