Piloting critical interim support for at-risk older Australians
The Critical Interim Support (CIS) program was devised to provide immediate case management services to vulnerable and socially isolated older people in Melbourne. Our evaluation examines how it can address a significant gap in the aged care system.
This program aims to assist older people who have limited or no supports and who experience deep socioeconomic disadvantage. Philanthropic funding (from the Vowell Foundation and a bequest) has enabled us to extend an initial small-scale service into a two-year pilot program. This commenced in September 2020 with the employment of two full-time case managers.
Many older people are unable to access the very system they should rely on for assistance. The My Aged Care assessment process is complicated, and even for those who are approved for services there are considerable wait times. As a result, people miss out on essential supports and services, such as nursing care, personal care, domestic help, allied health and primary health.
During time without supports, people’s circumstances are likely to worsen, leading to a need for greater care in the medium and long term. With a deterioration in their living environment and physical and mental health, there is a heightened risk of homelessness, premature placement in residential facilities and even premature death.
The case managers have identified many older people and carers who are living in precarious social circumstances. Issues such as hoarding, distrust of authorities, financial and physical abuse, domestic violence, estranged family relationships and unmet physical and mental health needs are often intertwined.
The support provided by interim case management is more than system navigation; it involves building trusted relationships, and prioritising access to multiple support services.