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Types of home care services
Home care services are services that can help support older people who may have difficulties with particular daily tasks, so that they can stay in their home rather than moving into an aged care facility. Services may include:
- domestic assistance, such as laundry, dishwashing, house cleaning
- gardening and maintenance
- meals and shopping
- safety and security, such as personal response systems, fall detectors and medical alarms
- social and recreational support, such as social worker visitation and support groups
- nursing and personal care, such as bathing, mobility, dressing
- transport services
Consumer law rights and responsibilities for home care services
All home care packages are delivered on a consumer directed care basis. Consumer directed care gives consumers the ability to choose and change their home care provider. Home care product and service providers must comply with the Australian Consumer Law.
This is the case:
- whether consumers use their own money or government funding, such as under a Home Care Package or the Commonwealth Support Programme, and
- in addition to the rights and responsibilities under other laws like the Aged Care Act 1997
Home care providers should:
- give clear, honest and complete information about their products and services
- give customers time to seek advice and make decisions
- make sure agreements are easy to understand and do not include unfair terms
- avoid adopting commission-based business models which might lead to pressure selling.
They should also make sure that their complaints system is easy for customers to navigate and doesn’t impact their care in any way. Having a good complaints handling system will help resolve issues quickly.
Consumers have the right to:
- choose their own provider
- be treated fairly and not be pressured into signing anything
- be given accurate information before they buy
- cancel a faulty service
- receive a repair, replacement or refund if something goes wrong
- change provider at any time, though exit fees may apply.
Many businesses operating in the home care sector have contracts with other businesses to provide specific products or services under a home care contract with a consumer. For example, larger providers may outsource to smaller providers for services and equipment.
Regardless of any agreement in place between businesses, the approved provider is still responsible for the consumer’s care and the quality of service they receive.
Consumers have the right to choose their own home care provider
Take time to speak to various providers and find the one that suits best.
Timeframes apply to the home care package process, but use this time to ask questions and do research. For a list of providers, call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or use the website www.myagedcare.gov.au.
Commercial aged care navigation and placement services
Navigating and accessing aged care can be overwhelming.
The Department of Health and Aged Care has developed guidance for those considering using a commercial (fee-charging) aged care navigation and placement service.
See the guidelines on the Department of Health and Aged Care website.
Aged care navigation and placement businesses are not regulated by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. But they do need to comply with the consumer law, like any other business.
Take time or just say ‘no’ to uninvited direct sales
Home Care Packages won’t normally be sold at a person's door or over the phone, but it’s important for consumers to know their rights if they're approached by a home care provider or any seller without invitation.
Uninvited sellers must:
- provide their name, the business they represent and that they’re contacting to sell goods or services
- give or send a copy of agreements in plain and clear language
- give or send a form which can be used to cancel the agreement.
Avoid signing anything on the spot. It’s against the law for a business to pressure people. Salespeople must leave when asked to do so.
If a consumer signs an agreement with someone who approached them without invitation, they can change their mind and cancel the agreement within 10 business days.
Watch out for false promises
Businesses mustn’t mislead consumers, such as by making false statements or leaving out important facts. Providers must be upfront and truthful when providing consumers with information.
Be aware of scammers, including those who may pretend to be a business or government agency. Scammers may contact by phone, email, social media or in person about home care or any other goods and services.
Consumers should never give personal information or payment unless they are 100% sure who they are giving it to. See Scams for more details on how consumers can protect themselves.
Understand the provider agreement
The Home Care Agreement is the contract which sets out the terms of the service for home care.
A consumer who is receiving home care under the Commonwealth Home Support Programme may have other types of contracts for services. Consumers should never sign anything they don’t understand - take time to look over the agreement and ask questions.
In the agreement, look for:
- who is providing the services, including whether the provider contracts this work out to others
- how much the service will cost, including any exit fees
- the details of the care plan
- the process to transfer to a new provider.
Seek advice on the agreement
Consumers can get assistance from an advocate, legal adviser, or a family member.
Consumers may be able to use a community legal service to assist with legal advice. Advocates can help set up and review the Home Care Agreement, package, care plan and budget.
Look out for unfair terms in the contracts for home care
The consumer law protects consumers from unfair terms in standard form contracts.
A term may be ‘unfair’ if it gives more rights to a provider than to the consumer, and those rights are not reasonably necessary for the provider. For example, a term that allows a provider to change the agreement without the consumer's consent is likely to be unfair. An advocate or legal adviser may assist to identify unfair terms.
Contract changes should only happen with consent
A provider might need to change a Home Care Agreement or contract for services, but they should only do so with the consumer's consent.
Understand what the changes mean and only sign if happy with the changes.
Consumers have the right to get what was promised
When hiring or purchasing goods or services in Australia, consumers have automatic rights called consumer guarantees.
If there is a problem with any home care product or service, the consumer should ask the provider to fix the problem.
The consumer may be able to get a repair, replacement product or service, refund, or cancel a service. In some cases, the consumer may also be entitled to compensation for damages or loss because of the problem with a product or service.
Understand how funds are spent
Check that monthly statements from the provider are correct and match what was agreed to. If fees on the statements weren’t agreed to or advised, ask the provider to explain them and provide a solution.
The provider can be changed at any time
Consumers can change providers for any reason including to get a better deal, to better meet their needs, or because there have been problems.
Check if an exit fee needs to be paid to change. Some providers charge exit fees, others don’t. If they do, the exit amounts can only come out of the unspent funds, so check the final bill.
If a consumer is entitled to cancel the service under the consumer guarantees, the provider should not charge an exit fee for this cancellation.