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How do sanctions work?

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission handles all sanction and accreditation matters relating to Government funded aged care services, which was previously handled by the Department of Health.

Last updated: January 23rd 2023
The Department of Health imposes sanctions on aged care providers if they find an immediate or severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of clients. (Source: Shutterstock)

The Department of Health imposes sanctions on aged care providers if they find an immediate or severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of clients. (Source: Shutterstock)

Key points:

  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission undertakes reviews and assessments and can implement sanctions
  • Aged care providers are now reviewed against the new Aged Care Quality Standards
  • If your provider is sanctioned, you will be made aware, along with every other care recipient in the facility

Aged care services need to meet all eight of the new Aged Care Quality Standards to continue their accreditation from the Government.

These standards came into effect on 1 July last year, taking over from the previous standards in order to simplify the process and create greater transparency for consumers.

The areas which are covered include:

  • Standard 1 – Consumer dignity and choice
  • Standard 2 – Ongoing assessment and planning with consumers
  • Standard 3 – Personal care and clinical care
  • Standard 4 – Services and supports for daily living
  • Standard 5 – Organisation’s service environment
  • Standard 6 – Feedback and complaints
  • Standard 7 – Human resources
  • Standard 8 – Organisational governance

The Commission performs a number of unannounced and scheduled audits, and reviews of residential aged care facilities across the country, to make sure the provider is upholding these standards at all times.

In home care, which includes Home Care Packages and services, Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) services, and flexible care services or short-term restorative care provided in a home care setting, are also reviewed against the new Aged Care Quality Standards.

Due to the flexibility and wide range of in home care services available, if a standard doesn’t apply to a specific provider, they won’t be reviewed against it.

In home care services will have a quality review at least once every three years and can include an onsite quality audit, a quality audit report and also a performance report.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner (Commissioner) will provide the service with written verification of the date for a quality audit to the premises of a home service provider, along with a form to explain to consumers and their representations about the adult.

What are sanctions?

The Commission can impose sanctions on service providers if they find an immediate or severe risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of clients in the above areas, or if the provider does not have the appropriate systems in place.

Sanctions can also be placed on a service provider if it receives a non-compliance notice, from not meeting all aged care quality standards, and has not fixed the problem in the set period of time.

Improvements required under a sanction can vary depending on the problem identified by the Commission assessment team.

Generally, a sanction means a service provider needs to enlist the help from an expert to fix the problem. It also means that the service provider cannot take in anymore care recipients, until the sanction has been lifted. The service provider will still need to uphold the care of their residents and will continue receiving funding for existing residents.

​What happens when a provider gets sanctioned?

If you are receiving care in a facility that has been sanctioned, you will receive a letter addressing the problem at the aged care service and how the sanction will work.

Your service provider should arrange a meeting with all the care recipients, including family members, to explain the problem, how they will fix it, and when the deadline is.

Government funding and regular services will continue as usual for existing clients during the sanction period. However, depending on the severity of the sanction, a provider could lose Government funding during this time.

The Commission will check to make sure the service provider fixes the problems in the allocated amount of time, usually six months, and will lift the sanction if the issues have been corrected by the expiry date.

How do I know if a provider is under sanction?

If you have started the aged care journey and are researching possible aged care providers, it might be worth checking to see if they have any past or present sanctions.

You could ask the provider you’re considering to disclose any information. Alternatively details on all sanctions are published online on the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s website, including the name and address of services, reasons for imposing sanctions and relevant dates and status of the provider. You can see if an aged care home or home care package provider has received a sanction on the Government’s non-compliance finder or find a service tool.

Information on imposed sanctions is never deleted. Once a sanction expires, or is lifted by the Commission, the published information is moved from “Current Sanctions” to “Archived Sanctions” on the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s website.

Don’t be afraid to ask potential providers about any sanctions you find, and how they dealt/are dealing with them.

Who should I speak to if I have concerns about my service provider?

If you are already receiving care and you are concerned or unhappy about the services then don’t be afraid to speak up. This might be scary but it’s always best to address concerns rather than leaving it to escalate.

If your concerns aren’t addressed by your provider directly, or you are unhappy with their response, you can contact an advocacy service to help you try resolve the matter with the provider. There are free and independent advocacy services in each State and Territory that provide advice over the phone and community education. If you receive Government funded home care or aged care services, you can access free advocacy services through the Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN), on 1800 700 600.

Alternatively, you can lodge a complaint with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission on their website or call them on 1800 951 822. You can make an anonymous or confidential complaint, although, to ensure a good outcome, it is always best to give as much information as possible including your contact details in case the Commission needs more details about your situation. Check out the Commission’s website for advice on how to make an effective complaint.

What are your main concerns with living in aged care? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:
What about complaints?
What’s next for the Aged Care Royal Commission in 2020?
What does accreditation mean in residential aged care?

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