July 22nd, 2023Bills but no service
Words: Donna Kelly
COMPLAINTS about in-home aged care provider, Benetas, continue to rise with concerns the organisation is sending out bills even when a service is not provided.
The Local first raised the issue in the June 19 edition after a woman called to say the cost had risen by 130 per cent and there was a lack of support workers.
Since then many people have contacted The Local to say they are not happy with the service. Benetas took over the Commonwealth Home Support Programme from the Hepburn Shire Council 12 months ago.
A number of people said, especially in relation to cleaning services, Benetas staff often failed to turn up for an allocated time – and the next service would be a fortnight away. Bills for the “non” services were still received in some cases.
A Trentham woman last week said Benetas had “pushed for direct debit” but she had refused. “I noticed on the previous bill that I was charged for three days when no one turned up. I then deducted those and paid what was due. However another bill has turned up for even more, and does not include the payment I have made.”
Another woman, from Daylesford, said her 87-year-old mother’s doctor had recommended a package for her. “Benetas assigned a cleaner for Mum but in the past eight weeks, Mum has had one visit from a different cleaner. Mum only has been assigned 45 minutes every fortnight, no-one has turned up in those times and calling Benetas is a waste of time, they either don’t answer or don’t call you back.
“If you miss your turn that’s it, you might or might not get someone else in the next fortnight. I have asked Benetas repeatedly to call me so that I know if someone is coming but they say they will and don’t do that either. There is the potential there for it to be a good service but at the moment it is a shambles unfortunately.”
The woman also said her mother had received an account saying she had domestic assistance on June 19, which was not true, and no-one had come since that date.
Another woman, also from Trentham, said she believed there were not enough staff. “We didn’t get cleaning done for about six weeks, and I am only getting an hour and a half each fortnight, but I wasn’t contacted to say they didn’t have someone to send. So you just sit around waiting and when no-one turns up it is up to me to call them. The contract says if I don’t call them to say we won’t be home, and someone turned up, I have to pay for that, but if they don’t let me know no-one is coming then that is just too bad for me.”
Ballarat MP Catherine King said she was concerned to hear that there continued to be dissatisfaction with Benetas. “I have contacted the Minister for Aged Care’s office and I have been advised that there have been some disruptions to services due to workforce issues, however Benetas advises they have accessed staff from surrounding areas to support service delivery.
“The Commonwealth Department was advised that clients have not been invoiced for services they have not received. All CHSP providers, including Benetas have access to additional CHSP funding to address issues relating to barriers for accessing services in aged care planning areas.
“If existing Benetas clients are not satisfied with their current services, they are encouraged to raise their concerns with Benetas directly to seek a resolution. My office is also happy to hear from anyone with concerns. If issues are unable to be resolved then the next step is to raise any service delivery concerns with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.
“The Commission can be contacted on 1800 951 822 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday or at www.agedcarequality.gov.au Alternatively, Benetas clients can seek an alternative provider in their local area and My Aged Care can provide support. My Aged Care can be contacted on 1800 200 422 (free call) between 8am and 8pm weekdays and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays.
“The Older Persons Advocacy Network is also a good source and provides advocacy services. OPAN can be contacted on 1800 700 600 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm on Saturdays.”
A Benetas spokesperson said: “We acknowledge that there have been service challenges in the Hepburn (Shire) area due to resourcing and recruitment of carers. To address these challenges, we have conducted a local recruitment drive to attract new carers as well as brought in new carers from other regions to provide interim support. We have increased resourcing in the scheduling department to help relieve those pressures and provide additional support for the team to work through any system and process issues being experienced by clients.
“We would like the opportunity to support our clients and we encourage them to contact us directly on 1300 23 63 82 so we can resolve any concerns they have.”
A Hepburn Shire Council spokesperson said the council had an ongoing role in supporting older people in the shire and clients could contact its Positive Ageing Officer on 03 5348 2306 for a confidential chat.