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Respite Care


Last amended: 1 July 2014

Definition of respite care



Residential respite care is a form of short-term care provided in aged care facilities for the purposes of giving a carer, or care recipient, a short break from their usual caring arrangement. It may be used on a planned or emergency basis. For income support assessment purposes, the term is restricted to government subsidised respite care, that is, care funded under the Aged Care Act 1997. The rules outlined below do not cover privately funded respite arrangements.

Note: For the eligibility requirements and financial assistance for respite care under the Veterans' Home Care (VHC) program, refer to Health Information and Management Note (HIMN) No 05/2007.

Respite care is not the same as transition care. Transition care is therapy focused care for a limited period of time, following a person's stay in hospital.     

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Respite care criteria

As with other forms of aged care, persons requiring respite care must be approved by ACAT in order to gain entry to a Government subsidised facility as a respite care resident. In most cases, a person can have up to 63 days of respite care in a financial year. However, if the ACAT determines it as necessary, extensions of up to 21 days at a time are possible.

Transfer to permanent care

If a person in respite care transfers to permanent care, the day the transfer takes place is the day the person is taken to have entered the aged care facility. The person's requirement to make an accommodation payment would be assessed at that point.    

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Pension assessment rules during respite care period



Respite care must be for a minimum of 14 consecutive days for a respite couple determination to apply. A person in respite care is considered to be in government subsidised care and therefore the assessment rules, contained in 9.2.4/In Care Assessment Rules, should be followed. This means that if one or both members of the couple are in respite care, then they may be determined to be an illness separated couple. In order for the definition of illness separated couple to be met, the couple must be living apart due to the illness or infirmity of one or both members of the couple.

Where a couple who is benefitting from the transitional rules becomes assessed under the standard rules as a respite care couple, access to transition arrangements is retained.  The transitional rules may apply again to determine the person's rate of income support pension when the period of respite finishes. 

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Resident pays basic fee only

A person in respite care pays a [glossary:basic:] [glossary:fee:] but cannot be asked to pay an accommodation payment, or any means tested fees.

DVA pays first 28 days basic fee

DVA will pay the basic [glossary:fee:] for up to 28 of the 63 days when the person entering residential respite care is the holder of a Gold Card or a White Card. After 28 days, the veteran, war widow/widower is responsible for paying the basic fee.    

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Australian former prisoners of war and Victoria Cross Veterans

DVA pays the [glossary:basic fee:DEF/Basic Fee] for up to 63 days (or such further period as is permitted under the Residential Care Subsidy Principles) for former prisoners of war and Victoria Cross veterans who receive respite care in an approved residential facility.    

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Aged Care Assessment Team.

Assessment with a member of an Aged Care Assessment Team is required for a person needing the following;

  • access to aged care services through any type of Home Care Package
  • receive services through the Transition Care Program
  • receive certain respite services
  • enter into a government subsidised aged care home

An ACAT will discuss the person's current situation and work out if they are eligible to receive government subsidised aged care services.

If a person can receive aged care services, an ACAT assessment will assist in accessing the right services for the care that is required.

An ACAT assessment is not required for aged care services that are not subsidised by the government. Examples might be services offered by volunteer groups and charitable organisations.

ACAT assessment is not necessary to receive aged care services through some government funded programs such as Home and Community Care, Day Therapy Centres and the National Respite for Carers Program as these organisations deliver these services that have their own, less formal, assessment procedures.

Note: An Aged Care Assessment Team is referred to as an Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) in Victoria. Where there is reference to the term ACAT, it intends the Victorian term ACAS to be interchangeable.

Government Subsidised Care is care provided to persons in approved facilities.

The government subsidy (also known as “pensioner supplement”), is paid directly to the facility by DH&FS on the behalf of pensioners receiving this care.

Where a care resident pays an accommodation bond more than ten times the annual rate of social security age pension, the pensioner supplement paid by DH&FS to the aged care facility to replace rent assistance is no longer paid.



An illness separated couple is a couple who cannot share a home because of the illness or infirmity of one or both partners. Illness separated couples may be paid the higher single rate of pension. Refer to subsection 5R(5) of the VEA for the full definition.



The Repatriation Health Card - For All Conditions is gold in colour and frequently referred to simply as the “Gold Card”.  The card entitles its holder to obtain health care and related services for all the person's identified health care needs, whether they are war-caused or not.

The Repatriation Health Card - For Specific Conditions (White Card) entitles its holder to treatment of 'accepted' disabilities, ie injuries, illnesses or diseases accepted by the Repatriation Commission as caused by war or other forms of eligible service. 

Depending on eligibility, Australian veterans may also be entitled to treatment of:

  • pulmonary tuberculosis (whether war caused or not) ;
  • malignant cancer (neoplasia) (whether war caused or not); and
  • any mental health condition (whether war caused or not);

where DVA has accepted a claim for treatment for those conditions.

Once the application for treatment only is approved by the Repatriation Commission a White Card is issued indicating that the Commission has accepted responsibility for the treatment of these conditions. 

Treatment for any unidentified condition that arises within 15 years of an eligible period of service is available to all veterans, members of the Defence Force, or peacekeepers with an eligible period of service.  The treatment is available once the application is approved by the Repatriation Commission and a White Card is issued. Treatment coverage continues until the condition is diagnosed and a decision is then made as to whether the now identified condition is service related or not.  Treatment is continued for those identified conditions accepted as service related.  Treatment ceases for those rejected as service related.