ELDERLY Australians on low to modest incomes hoping to stay at home for as long as possible face increases of more than 150 per cent in charges for care services under the government's aged care reforms.
The Gillard government's Living Longer, Living Better policy, proposes a user-pays system that would lift minimum payments by more than $3000 a year for a person on an income of $30,000 and by more than $8000 a year for those on $50,000.
The government, attempting to meet widespread demand from older people to stay in their homes as long as possible, is promising a 60 per cent boost to 100,000 in the number of people to get subsidised packages for at-home services such as personal care, house-cleaning and transport.
But a UnitingCare Ageing analysis of the impact of the new means tested ''care fee'', which is to be added to the current $1800 average basic fee for home care, reveals that recipients on a $30,000 income would face minimum total payments of $5029. That could rise to $6392 if they were charged the full basic fee of $3163, which is rarely demanded at present.
A government spokeswoman last night confirmed the figures.
People on incomes of $50,000 would pay more than 20 per cent of their incomes for at-home care, the UnitingCare figures show.
Those on lower incomes receiving the full pension, who comprise 51 per cent of those in aged care, will not have to pay more than the $1800 basic fee.
The user-pays plan has a more significant impact on part-pensioners who are on incomes of $30,000 to $40,000 - many frail people in their 70s and 80s.
The director of UnitingCare Ageing NSW/ACT, Steve Teulan, said the figures would apply nationally. He said that while the government's plan to boost home-care numbers was to be welcomed, the impact of the user-pays charges raised the question of ''whether people will be able to afford this service, particularly those on low incomes''.
There was also the prospect of many people telling care organisations they could not afford to pay for the service.
Mr Teulan said the proposed restructure also put greater onus on care organisations to meet the difference between the total cost and the government subsidy.
A spokeswoman for the Ageing Minister, Mark Butler, said the new means-tested fee system would represent between 16.8 per cent and 21.3 per cent of income for a person on $30,000, compared with the current fee representing between 6 per cent and 10.5 per cent of income.
But she said under the more intensive home care packages recipients would pay up to 14 per cent of the cost of their care.