January 27, 2021


Why it's getting harder to achieve an ACAT assessment via My Aged Care

I've made a lot of referrals to My Aged Care in my time. Too many to keep count.

My preference is to make online referrals, so I can download the PDF of the referral as evidence, because referrals have gone missing in the portal in the past.

But over the past 12 months or so, it has been harder and harder to achieve a recommendation for an ACAT assessment at the conclusion of the referral. The recommended referral agency has been a Regional Assessment Service (or RAS), even when clients have high care needs.

I'm not the only one who is noticing this. Recently I have discussed this with geriatrician colleagues, GPs and home care package coordinators and they have noticed the same thing, that referrals to My Aged Care are resulting in a recommendation for an assessment with the Regional Assessment Service (RAS) and not the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).

What makes this situation more frustrating is that referrals to My Aged Care for Short-Term Restorative Care or support plan reviews for people who are receiving home care packages and needing a review for a higher level of package, DO NOT sit with a RAS assessor.

These types of referrals can only be approved by assessors with an Aged Care Assessment Team. Yet My Aged Care will make the recommendation at the conclusion of the online referral for a RAS assessment.

I'll tell you why I think this is happening. I think it is either an unintentional glitch in the system, that is, the My Aged Care platform, or it is intentionally occurring to keep the tsunami of older people needing an ACAT assessment away from the ACATs...thereby keeping the number of people waiting in the national queue for home care packages lower than is the reality.

I felt strongly about this situation 12 months ago and made a submission to the Royal Commission. I wrote that My Aged Care disadvantages the people it is designed to assist, by the complexity of the system and the limited understanding of the call centre staff about the programs administered within the aged care sector.

I also wrote that an assessment with a RAS may or may not result in an ongoing referral to an ACAT, which is what should happen if a RAS assessor detects a client with more complex needs. But as non-clinicians with limited training, how can a RAS assessor know that what they are seeing are complex needs?

Well, if they are approving for more than 4 services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP), that would be an indicator. More than four CHSP services is pushing beyond 'entry level'.

Today I saw a RAS assessment that had eleven referral codes for CHSP services.

Eleven referral codes reflects a client who requires much more than entry level support.

Eleven referral codes indicates that a client has complex needs and requires a coordinated approach to care and support, that is, a home care package. To be assigned a home care package, an ACAT assessment is required.

If you're able to make it to an ACAT assessment, it is more than likely the ACAT assessor will approve you for a home care package. The key is getting your referral to reach the ACAT. The barrier to achieving an ACAT assessment is the system itself.

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