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Biggest reform to in-home aged care to affect Aboriginal elders, carers say -

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EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: It's been described as the biggest reform to in-home aged care in a generation.

Last year 70,000 Australian seniors who received federally funded care at home began choosing their own packages under a program called Consumer Directed Care. But the change has led to complaints over high fees and some confusion.

Now there are claims from carers who work with Aboriginal elders that Consumer Directed Care is failing Indigenous people.

Social affairs correspondent Norman Hermant reports.

(Footage of Dianne Creighton approaching Christy Bolt's house, walking up stairs to entrance and knocking on front door)

CAPTION: Dianne Creighton used to make regular house calls to Indigenous elders on the New South Wales north coast. That ended with the introduction of Consumer Directed Care last July.



CHRISTY BOLT: Good thanks. How are you?

DIANNE CREIGHTON: Good. How's things going?

CHRISTY BOLT: Good. Good. Yeah.

NORMAN HERMANT, REPORTER: The transition saw the program Creighton worked for wrap up. She still occasionally checks on elders, like Christy Bolt, who struggled to help his brother arrange in-home care after a stroke.

CHRISTY BOLT: He just gets confused and asks me is there anyone that can help him.

NORMAN HERMANT: His brother did eventually receive in-home care, but it wasn't easy.

DIANNE CREIGHTON: You have to have the trust of the Aboriginal person and their family or their primary carer. And if you don't have that, then it's just doomed to fail.

(Dianne addresses meeting)

DIANNE CREIGHTON: To me, the changes are not geared up for our people.

NORMAN HERMANT: The changes mean far fewer of the health workers coming into Aboriginal communities to assess in-home care needs are Indigenous.

MILLIE CAMERON, ABORIGINAL ELDER: When white person come out to talk to me, I get really nervous and anxiety sets in. And I'm thinking, "Oh my goodness, (laughs) I don't know what to say" and all that.

NORMAN HERMANT: Those who work in Aboriginal aged care say there are other significant barriers posed by Consumer Directed Care.

The main access point is a 1800 phone number.

AUTOMATED RECEPTION VOICE (telephone): Welcome to My Aged Care contact centre. All calls to the service are recorded for training purposes...

NORMAN HERMANT: Many Indigenous people don't have landlines and use mobile phones sparingly to conserve credit.

There's also the My Aged Care website. That also presents challenges for many Aboriginal people.

Noeline Olive has worked in Indigenous age care for 26 years.

NOELINE OLIVE, ABORIGINAL RESPITE COORDINATOR: One client out of the 18 clients I'm currently working with knows how to use a computer; knows how to go onto the website.

PAUL SIMPSON, ABORIGINAL ELDER: You've got to have, like, some sort of degree to know what sort of package you're supposed to be on. And, well, why should it be our job to know what we need and what we don't need, you know?

NOELINE OLIVE: We raised those concerns. My staff raised them. Other service staff raised them and raised these same things over and over again.

NORMAN HERMANT: And what happened?

NOELINE OLIVE: Nothing. Nothing's changed. It's still rolled out how it is.

NORMAN HERMANT: A spokesperson for Assistant Health Minister Ken Wyatt, responsible for aged care delivery, told Lateline: "If older people have trouble accessing My Aged Care via phone or the website, family and friends can contact My Aged Care on their behalf."

(Footage of Fred McGrady driving his car and speaking with passenger)

FRED MCGRADY, ABORIGINAL AGED CARE WORKER: Now you're a Cabbage Tree Island guy, huh, Papa Graham? You were born and raised there?

NORMAN HERMANT: Fred McGrady is headed to the Indigenous community of Cabbage Tree Island. He works with an Aboriginal aged care service in the Ballina region.

FRED MCGRADY: Well, I'm 64 in September this year. And majority of the kids that I went to school with were all or mostly dead in my age, in my age group by the time they were 40. By the time they were 40.

NORMAN HERMANT: McGrady has come with a former resident of Cabbage Tree Island. It's about 25 kilometres outside of Ballina.

FRED MCGRADY: You want a hand to come down the stairs, mate??

NORMAN HERMANT: Resident Uncle Doug Anderson has an in-home care package. He's recovering from a stroke and is often taken into town for medical appointments.

All the services he receives cost more because, like many Aboriginal people, he lives in a community that Government policy located well away from town.

FRED MCGRADY: We were put in these pigeonholes and now we are trying to still be part of mainstream Australia. But we're getting the same amount of money to care for our elders and it's unfair because of the isolation of where we were told we had to live.

(Dianne Creighton leaves Christy Bolt's house)

DIANNE CREIGHTON: It's good to catch up with you again.

NORMAN HERMANT: Dianne Creighton says she knows it's too late now to stop Consumer Directed Care.

DIANNE CREIGHTON: And it's not the "one size fit all" system that the non-Aboriginal people are expected to adhere to. This is not going to work unless we've got someone to guide our people through the process of change.

(To Christy Bolt) All the best. See ya.

CHRISTY BOLT: OK. Thanks, Di. Thanks for the help.