For most people, one of the most frustrating parts of getting older is finding it harder to do the simple, everyday tasks they used to do. However, getting older doesn’t have to mean you lose your independence. Thankfully, home help for pensioners is available Australia-wide thanks to programs like the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.

In this article, we explore what home assistance for pensioners is available through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, including who is eligible, how to access it and how the Commonwealth Home Support Programme differs from other home help for pensioners like the Australian Government’s Home Care Packages.

What is the Commonwealth Home Support Programme?

According to the Australian Government, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme is designed to help older Australians ‘access entry-level support services to live independently and safely at home.’ The focus of the program is on connecting older people who are able to maintain their independence, with the services they need to live at home. Under the programme, the Australian Government provides funding to service providers to enable eligible Australians in all states and territories to access subsidised care services.

Am I eligible for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme?

Whether you are eligible for the home help for pensioners available through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme depends on your age and your support needs. At a minimum, to be eligible for the program you must be:

  • 65 years or older (50 years or older for Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people), or
  • 50 years or older (45 years or older for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), on a low income and homeless, or at risk of being homeless.

As well as meeting these age-based eligibility requirements, you must be assessed as needing the support. Examples of people who may be eligible include those who have:

  • noticed a change in what they can do or remember
  • been diagnosed with a medical condition or reduced mobility
  • experienced a change in family care arrangements, or
  • experienced a recent fall or hospital admission.

If you think you might be eligible based on your age and your needs, these are the steps to take to access the Commonwealth Home Support Programme:

  1. Complete the Commonwealth Home Support Programme eligibility checker to determine whether you are eligible for an assessment. The questionnaire is anonymous and only takes a few minutes. It asks basic questions about your age, and the types of activities you can no longer do independently.
  2. If you are found to be eligible for an assessment, you can then apply for an assessment to confirm whether you can access the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. Assessments are done in person, at your home by trained professionals who will ask you more questions about your situation and overall health to ensure they recommend the right services for you. They can also put you in touch with service providers in your area.

What services can I receive?

A wide range of home help for pensioners is available under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. Most of these services are designed to help with a range of everyday tasks from cooking and cleaning, to gardening and home maintenance. However, you can also receive support to maintain an active social life, which is key to healthy ageing.

Here’s a list of the home assistance for pensioners you might be able to access:

  • Meals and food preparation – assistance with cooking, or meal delivery.
  • Bathing, hygiene and grooming – help to use the toilet and bathroom, get dressed and undressed, get into and out of bed, and reminders to take your medication.
  • Nursing – to help with wound care and management, assist you to take your medication or provide advice about general health management.
  • Podiatry, physiotherapy and other therapies – assistance such as speech therapy, podiatry, occupational therapy and other clinical services like vision and hearing services.
  • Help with impairments or continence – support to manage continence issues or problems with dementia or hearing and/or vision impairments.
  • Day or overnight respite – a short-term care service designed to give you or your carer a rest. Through this service you can access a respite facility to engage with other people, or you can have a paid carer come to your home to relieve your regular carer.
  • Home modifications – changes to your home to make it more accessible for you, including the installation of safety rails, easy access taps or ramps. You can also receive advice about the best modifications to make to support you to move about the house.
  • Home or garden maintenance – help to keep your home and garden safe and liveable, such as gutter cleaning, lawn mowing and fixing uneven flooring.
  • Cleaning, laundry and other household chores – assistance with keeping your home tidy and clean including help to make the beds, do the washing and ironing, and basic cleaning like vacuuming, dusting and mopping.
  • Aids to stay independent – the government can provide a range of aids to help you maintain your independence, including pressure-relieving mattresses, bed rails, walking aids like frames, walking sticks and walkers.
  • Transport – to keep you connected with the community and to get around. You can access support to get you to medical appointments, do your shopping and undertake social activities. You could also be eligible for transport vouchers or subsidies.
  • Social assistance – support to keep you socialising, such as arranging for you to attend and make your way to social events, help to set up phone and internet communication services, arranging for visitors to drop in or give you a call etc.

Who provides the services?

While the Australian Government funds the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, it does not deliver the services. Services are provided by a range of organisations across Australia, registered as Commonwealth Home Support Programme service providers with the Australian Government. These organisations receive subsidies from the Australian Government to provide the services through the program.

The type of services available to you will therefore depend on the number of Commonwealth Home Support Programme service providers in your area. You can use the government’s online Find a Provider to see which organisations provide the services you need in your region.

Will it cost me anything?

How much the home help for pensioners provided through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme will cost depends on the nature of the service you are seeking and your financial situation. If you are able to do so, you will be asked to contribute to the cost of the services you receive through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme. As you would expect, simpler services (such as meal services) generally cost less than more complex services such as home modifications, which you will need to pay a lot more for.

While there are some out-of-pocket expenses, the Australian Government provides subsidies to the providers who deliver the services to keep costs as low as possible. While you will need to contribute to the cost of the service, you will never be asked to pay the full cost.

To keep the services affordable, there are a number of safeguards in place. These include:

  • All Commonwealth Home Support Programme providers must have a client contribution policy to protect people who aren’t able to contribute to the cost, and ensure that the people who can afford to contribute do so. Even if you’re not sure about whether you can afford the service, it’s worth reaching out to a provider in your area to see what their fees policy is.
  • All Commonwealth Home Support Programme providers must be transparent about their fees, advise you of the contributions you need to pay and keep a record of these contributions.
  • You must agree to the fees before the service is provided, and if you disagree with the fee you do not have to go ahead with the service.

How is the Commonwealth Home Support Programme different to a Home Care Package?

Lots of people wonder what the difference between the Commonwealth Home Support Programme and Home Care Packages is. After all, they both offer a very similar range of services.

Put simply, the main difference is about how the home assistance for pensioners is delivered. Under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, you need to access services directly through a provider and contribute to the cost. By contrast, a Home Care Package provides eligible people with a package of funding they can use to access a range of services.

Which program is right for you really depends on the level of support you need. The main aim of the Commonwealth Home Support Programme is to help people who only need a few services to maintain their independence. By comparison, the Home Care Package is designed to support those people with more complex care needs. If you only need one or two services, the Commonwealth Home Support Programme is probably the best option for you. If, on the other hand, you need multiple care services on an ongoing basis, you’ll likely be eligible for a Home Care Package.

Sources

  • Australian Government, 2023, Commonwealth Home Support Programme