SERVICES Australia will expand face-to-face help for seniors trying to get help in what one Bendigo advocate has branded an extremely complicated system.
The government agency's move could help replace Ruth Hosking, a Bendigo woman who has been volunteering to help people get the aged care support they and their loved ones need for more than 30 years.
She was among people who called for reforms of practices at agencies like Centrelink - which is now overseen by Services Victoria - several years ago at the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
"There's always been a need in Bendigo, as there is in any regional centre," Mrs Hosking said.
"People need somewhere they can go to find the information that answers to their needs. Each one of us has different needs and different circumstances. This can't be done via guidelines in handouts."
Services Australia plans to expand the number of face-to-face services at hubs across the country.
It will expand the number of centres offering the service from 15 to 80 by December 22.
That will include 10 mobile outreach services for remote areas.
It is not yet clear exactly where they will all be based but they are likely to include Bendigo, given its population size and its role as a health hub for the wider region.
So-called aged care specialist officers will be able to discuss assessment referrals, financial information and connections to local support services.
Mrs Hosking has been researching how much time volunteers put on behalf of the Council on the Ageing after a request for information.
She was also a strong advocate for a face-to-face service when she gave evidence at the royal commission in 2019.
The former nurse told the commission that the system was so complex that people struggled to access aged care.
Mrs Hosking described people going through several stages in their search for care before they met with an actual person. She said it often left elderly people confused.
"It adds to the anxiety of their set of circumstances, because they're disheartened and saddened," Ms Hosking said at the time.
She was one of multiple people who raised concerns about accessing care services.
Others who spoke at Bendigo hearings painted dire pictures of the system, which they portrayed as one of undertrained staff, profits before people and services ill-equipped to look after those with complex needs.
Two years later, Mrs Hosking is glad to see action ramping up.
"I'm excited that the government has listened, and heard what we older people have had to say," she said.
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