What Happens to the Remaining Funds in My Home Care Package?
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What Happens to the Remaining Funds in My Home Care Package?

The Australian government provides Home Care Packages to older people requiring coordinated home care services and younger people with disabilities, dementia or other profound care needs. Individuals receiving this funding must submit an assessment to determine how much financing they should receive. Assessors will explore their medical records, living situation and other documentation to determine a suitable subsidy.

The government credits a Services Australia bank account in your name if approved. You can use this funding to pay an approved Home Care Provider for services.

The payments made to your Services Australia bank account are not “money” in the strict sense of the word. Instead, you receive “funding,” which is capital you can use for a specific purpose, in this case, home care. The government operates this policy to ensure fairness.

But what if you have unspent funds in your account? Can you access those?

The short answer is “yes,” you can use unspent funds in your Home Care Package account. However, there are restrictions and caveats.

What Are Unspent Funds?

Unspent funds are balances in your Services Australia account (or held by your care provider) that you did not spend during the official accounting period. The leftover amount comes from two sources:

  • “Commonwealth” or subsidy funding from the government
  • Fees paid by you (including the basic fee and income-tested charge)

Taken together, these comprise your “unspent funds.”

Unspent Funds From Government Subsidies

The government subsidy provides most of the funding required to support your care needs. How much you receive depends on your Home Care Package level, figures that change in line with inflation.

Level 1 Home Care Packages are for individuals with minimal support requirements, providing $10,7210.10 annually in 2023. This funding might pay for one or two daily visits and rudimentary household chores. Levels 2 and 3 support substantially more at $18,063.85 a year and  $39,310.50 a year, respectively. Those with the most profound support needs to remain in their homes can access Level 4 funding, providing $59,593.55 a year in 2023.

How the government classifies the accounting period for unspent funds differs depending on whether you are still receiving home care or exiting the scheme.

Unspent funds accrue for dates between the day you started receiving homecare and the same day in the following year if you remain in the scheme. However, it ends on cessation day, the day the recipient leaves the scheme, if you discontinue services.

On 1 September 2021, the government created the Services Australia home care account scheme for everyone receiving a Home Care Package. The tool gave the government more oversight over unspent funds. It also makes it more straightforward for scheme participants to track how much money they have left in their accounts, allowing them to adjust spending to make the best use of their budget.

Approved Home Care Package providers have an incentive to help you use as much of your funding as possible. The more you spend on services, the higher their income will be. However, sometimes, you can end up with a higher balance than you would like despite receiving care throughout the year. When this happens, you should find a way to use funds better (as discussed below).

Unspent Funds From Private Contributions

The government asks people to contribute to the cost of their care if they can afford it. Consequently, unspent funds can also comprise money from your pocket.

Most Home Care Package participants must pay the basic daily fee (set at up to $12.30 per day from 30 September 2023). This money goes towards supplementing the care package funding you receive.

You may also have to pay an income-tested care fee up to a maximum amount set annually ($35.95 from 20 September 2023). How much you contribute depends on your income from other sources. The government places annual and lifetime limits on the total amount you contribute to keep payments fair.

If you pay for additional home care services not covered by your Home Care Package, you should pay these to your provider directly. These do not count as “unspent funds.”

What Happens To Unspent Funds If You Are Still A Home Care Package Recipient?

So, what happens to unspent funds if you continue using a Home Care Package? The government provides several options, depending on your circumstances.

Roll Over Unspent Funds

You can carry over unspent funds from one year to the next, up to 15% of your total Home Care Package annual subsidy. For example, you could carry over up to $3,000 if you received $20,000 in the previous accounting period.

Spend On Additional Services

Another option is to spend unspent funds on additional services and use the available care support.

For example, an approved care service provider might do your household chores and medications, but you might not offer socialising or transport support. Spending on additional services could rectify this, enabling you to get more from life.

Return The Funds To The Government

You could also return the funds to the government under some circumstances. However, this approach won’t benefit you and may suggest issues with your home care providers’ service provision.

For example, if you have more than 15% surplus funds in your account (the maximum carryover limit), you must return it to the government. Most home care providers will do this work for you, performing financial reconciliation that shows how much you spent in the year and what’s left over. However, you may want to switch to a new agency if your current one isn’t using resources well.

What Happens To Unspent Funds If You Leave Your Home Care Package Scheme?

People benefiting from Home Care Packages can leave for various reasons, including death or permanent nursing home placement. When this happens, the government must decide what to do with the remaining funds.

What happens next depends on whether you contributed personal money to your Home Care Package. If you do not contribute, the funding will return to the government. Authorities will then use this money to pay for the care of another person.

If you contributed using personal money, you will receive a rebate in proportion to your contributed amount. For example, if the government contributed $9,000 to the unspent funding in your account, and you contributed $1,000, you would receive the latter, and the authorities would spend the former on someone else.

Any payments you make in the form of the Basic Daily Fee, Income Tested Care Fee, and Top Up Contributions comprise your contribution. Currently, it does not matter how much of your private money you have in your Services Australia account. The government should return it to you in its entirety, according to its reimbursement formula.

Why Do Unspent Funds Accumulate? 

The government intends people to use their allocated funding for their current needs. It does not want to encourage saving for future needs through the Home Care Package vehicle. As such, funds should not accumulate. If they do, it should be short-term.

There are various reasons funds can accumulate. These depend on your situation (or the person receiving care). However, they usually indicate a problem with your current care or financial arrangements.

Examples include:

  • Being upgraded to a higher funding level than necessary. Sometimes assessors will provide you with more funding than your situation warrants. For example, you might have adequate balance for three daily visits, while you only need one. In these circumstances, you don’t need as much funding to provide for your requirements, causing it to build up in your account.
  • Planning for future events. Funding can also accumulate in your account if you plan for future events. Given government rules, the amount you save should be small for transitory items, such as covering a support worker going on holiday.
  • Taking temporary leave. You might also find funds accumulating in your account if you take “temporary leave” where you suspend your home care services. Even if you stop using your Home Care Package, funding can continue entering your account for up to 28 days. You may also continue receiving 25% of your agreed subsidy amount in future months.

How To Manage Unspent Funds If You Continue Using Your Home Care Package

How you manage your unspent funds varies depending on whether you continue using your Home Care Package. If you decide to keep using home care services, here is what you should do:

Step 1: Review Your Care Plan With Your Provider

Extra funds accumulating in your Services Australia Home Care Package account means you aren’t getting the best value from your existing provider. An excess balance shows you could get more care at home to help you remain independent.

If you are in this situation, arrange a care review plan with your provider. Talk to them about your ongoing care and the additional services you require. Your provider should offer these services using your remaining balance.

Step 2: Respond To Care Package Upgrades

If the unspent money comes from a Home Care Package upgrade, talk to your provider as soon as possible. Tell them about your increased funding and the new services you require.

High-quality agencies, like Home Caring, will update your care plan and home care agreement to reflect your increased budget immediately. Teams should arrange more support to complement your desired lifestyle and medical circumstances. You should not have to campaign for changes.

If you believe your existing care package is sufficient, you can opt out of the national priority system. Doing this eliminates automatic upgrades and prevents you from receiving funding you don’t need.

How To Manage Unspent Funds If You Stop Using Your Home Care Package

How you manage unspent funds if you stop using your Home Care Package is different. You will need to finalise various balances and settle with your provider and the government.

This process can be complicated, so speak to Home Caring. We can help you make the proper arrangements. Here’s what we do:

Step 1: Calculate The Unspent Funding Amount

The first step is to calculate how much funding remains unspent. To do this, we collect your final subsidy and supplement claims, expenses, invoices, and home care fee receipts to hand.

When calculating your unspent funding amount, we don’t include home care fees paid in advance. Instead, we refund these to you (or the care recipient).

Cessation day is the day you stop receiving Home Care Package services. The government does not pay a subsidy for that day but does pay one for all the days preceding it.

We add up all your fees, subsidies and transfers to calculate your unspent home care amount for the period. Then, we consider how much you’ve spent (or will spend) on services as part of your plan.

If you spent more than your allowance, the unspent funds are zero. If less, you should still have money in your account you can access.

Step 2: Provide Notice

The next step is to notify you of how much unspent funding is in your home care account and whether you need to pay any remaining unpaid fees. We will tell you how to pay and when to make further payments if needed.

Once done, we will tell you in writing how much of your unspent private contribution you will receive, the subsidy amount that will be returned to the government, and any transfer fees the new provider requires. Having this information gives you more insight into your financial position.

Step 3: Receive Your Payout

How you receive your payout depends on whether you:

  • Change to a new provider
  • Leave home care or pass away

If you change to a new home care provider, the unspent funds in your account move to the new agency. You have to tell your old provider who your new one will be within 56 days of cessation day. Then, your old provider must pay the proportion of money to the new provider within 70 days.

If you leave care or pass away, the care provider must tell Services Australia how much subsidy money remains unspent in your account. The government will then recover the funds by subtracting them from future home care payments or issuing a debt notice.

Care agencies must pay your portion of the funds within 14 days after seeing probate or letters of administration. This transfer helps calculate your estate.

Sometimes, unspent funds go to your beneficiaries (or children) when you die. People who contributed an Income Tested Care Fee can see part of their money returned to their estate.

Step 4: Keep Records

Care providers keep records of any unspent amounts once they pay you. Agencies also track unspent home care amounts to providers and care recipients.

Home Caring will tell you how many unspent funds you have in your account in a monthly statement. Alternatively, you can call us for up-to-date information about your financial position.

Managing Your Own Home Care Package

You can manage your own Home Care Package if you want to avoid a home care provider doing it for you. Agencies charge a fee that covers package administration. Payments go towards ensuring they hire high-quality support and have the resources to manage your care.

If you self-manage, you can save money. However, you will need to manage your budget and schedule yourself, checking regularly to ensure you have sufficient funding.

If you decide to manage funding yourself, you have more control over unspent funds in your account. Keeping tabs on funding shows you what you have left and how much more you can spend.

How To Make The Best Use Of Your Home Care Package

What happens to the remaining funds in your Home Care Package depends on your situation. Sometimes, you can’t avoid them. However, it is better if you can keep them to a minimum. Using all your funding ensures you receive the services you need to remain independent and live purposefully.

But how do you do that? This section outlines some strategies you can use to make the best use of the funding available to you.

Review Your Funding Regularly

The first step is to review your funding regularly. Knowing what you have in your account weekly helps you track your usage.

If you discover that funding is rising over time, add a service. Your care provider should give you various options you can try, such as extra transport services or even socialising opportunities.

Review Your Care Plan

You also want to review your care plan with your provider to check you are getting the services you need. Sometimes, your medical and personal requirements change, but your home care agency can’t keep up.

Therefore, talk to your account manager and discuss your requirements. Find out what you could add to your routine to improve your service level and quality of life. Also, check with recommended care schedules from My Aged Care. These provide insight into the level of support you should receive.

Seek Advice

You could also seek advice. Asking Home Caring about what you could do to improve service provision can help you use your funding better.

Talk To Your Provider Regularly

Finally, it can help you open dialogue with your care coordinator and tailor your services. My Aged Care and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) prioritise client choice. That means you can pick and mix the services you want, eliminating items that don’t help you and adding those that do.

What Happens To Unspent NDIS Funds?

The rules for NDIS funds are different. If you don’t use the funding available in this scheme, it won’t roll over, and you won’t get to use it in the next accounting period.

Because of this, it is essential to ensure you use all the funds the government allocates to you. Work with your care provider to discuss your needs and how you can use resources more effectively.

If you discover that you consistently have unspent funds in your account, try to find out why. Ask your care provider why your care plan isn’t keeping pace with your budget and question them about the services they are omitting.

NDIS funding can go towards many items that help you live a more fulfilling and independent life. Part of your balance goes toward personal care and domestic help, but you can also funnel it into educational activities and even getting support workers to help find employment.

Now You Know What Happens To The Remaining Funds In Your My Home Care Package

Having read this article, you should understand what happens to the remaining funds in your Home Care Package. Where they go depends on your situation. If you leave home care permanently, you receive money in proportion to the cash paid into the remaining balance. If you transfer to another provider or have unspent money, you can use it for more services, carry a portion over, or return it to the government.

Ideally, you want to avoid unspent funds from accumulating in your Services Australia account to begin with. The government wants Home Care Package participants to spend on current care, not save for the future. If you don’t use all your funding, it could indicate a sub-par experience where you aren’t getting the services you need.

If you are looking for a My Aged Care home care provider in Australia, choose Home Caring. Our team actively helps you make the most of your funding and minimises the risk of excess building in your account. We only hire the most professional and well-vetted carers for peace of mind and to ensure the highest quality of care. Many have specific training in dementia care, behavioural management, and palliative care to ensure you live your best life.

Call us to learn more about what we do and how we can help you.

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