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Australia is struggling to define ‘high-quality’ aged care

As providers grow concerned about the new Aged Care Act Exposure Draft, COTA Australia’s CEO doubled-down on progressive reform.

<p>Following public feedback, changes to Australia’s aged care system are on the way. [Source: Shutterstock via FiledIMAGE]</p>

Following public feedback, changes to Australia’s aged care system are on the way. [Source: Shutterstock via FiledIMAGE]

Key points:

  • Subject to parliamentary processes, the new Aged Care Act will commence on July 1, 2025, to align with the launch of the new Support at Home program
  • The new Aged Care Act was initially set to be delivered by July 1, 2024

 

Over 320 organisations and 10,000 people have provided feedback following the government’s release of the new Aged Care Act Exposure Draft.

Some providers expressed concern that certain aspects of a proposed ‘Statement of Rights,’ such as the right to ‘equitable access’ to aged care and ‘freedom of choice’ for those seeking care, would not be achievable, particularly in rural areas.

According to the Consultation Feedback Report, stakeholders claimed that if they could not uphold the new Statement of Rights due to market conditions beyond their control, they may be at risk of damage to their reputation or an influx of complaints from older people.

The definition of ‘high-quality aged care’ also received feedback from a significant number of stakeholders, as many felt that they should not be judged based on their ability to retain staff.

Council on the Ageing Australia Chief Executive Officer Patricia Sparrow said it has and will continue to be important for people to make their views known and understand the scope and range of others’ views.

“At the end of the day, providing older people with fundamental rights isn’t controversial and any pushback against that would be incredibly disappointing,” she said. 

“This was the number one recommendation of the Royal Commission; older people have been waiting for their rights to be enshrined in legislation for a long time and need certainty and security when it comes to accessing care.

“They need certainty around the care they will receive and need a guarantee that what they will be asked to pay is fair. It’s up to all parliamentarians to make sure that happens.

“There’s no excuse for not delivering the basic rights older people deserve.

“We are still reviewing the consultation summary report and will scrutinise the bill introduced in parliament to make sure that the issues raised during the consultation and in our joint submission are appropriately addressed.”

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells confirmed that the scheduled delivery of Australia’s new Aged Care Act will be ‘updated’ to reflect feedback from the public upon the delivery of the legislation exposure draft.

The proposed date — July 1, 2025 — coincides with the planned launch of the new Support at Home program, however, the new Aged Care Act must be passed by parliament.

The Support at Home program is intended to replace the Home Care Packages program and Short-Term Restorative Care Programme from July 1, 2025. The Commonwealth Home Support Programme will transition to the SAH program from July 1, 2027.

The Exposure Draft of the new Aged Care Act received feedback from advocates regarding:

  • the time it would take to implement reforms;
  • how people’s rights will be upheld;
  • how supported decision-making, whistleblower protections and the new definition of high-quality care will work in practice;
  • the proposed new due diligence duty on board members.

 

Ms Sparrow contended that care should be defined by the ability to provide adequate staffing.

“Every single older person accessing care services needs and deserves high-quality care. That means care that is safe, rights-based and always centred around the needs and wants of the older person,” she said.

“High-quality care requires adequate staff to deliver it. We can’t achieve the level of quality care and quality of life we need to without the staff to deliver it.”

The COTA Australia CEO stated that the new Aged Care Act would be inefficient if it were based on hypothetical situations in which providers fail to meet new standards for aged care.

“We need to set the standard older Australians expect and deserve and pull out all the stops to meet that standard.

“The bar should be set high. We’ve got decades of experience and the shocking findings of a Royal Commission to show us what can go wrong when you don’t set the bar high enough.

“Improving the quality of care shouldn’t be seen as aspirational — it’s a basic necessity and right.

“It shouldn’t matter which postcode or region you live in or what your specific needs are — high-quality care needs to be the assumption and baseline, not the exception.

“Of course, time may be required to change and improve the [aged care] system, as has been the case with 24/7 nursing, but that’s not a reason to delay it; it’s a reason to get moving as soon as possible. Older people have been waiting for too long for their rights and it’s time to get this done.

“The specifics can be considered once the act is in parliament, but we already know we have a start date of July 1, 2025, so providers and others should be getting ready now so that they’re ready to deliver right-based care by then. 

“Of course, there may be some exceptional circumstances to be considered, but they can be considered on a case-by-case basis. It should never get in the way of delivering the high-quality care we need to see across the board.”

 

What do you consider to be the definition of ‘high-quality care’ and do you believe everyone will be able to access it in the near future? Let the team at Talking Aged Care know and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.

 

Related content:

Almost 95 percent of Aussie adults are worried about aged care costs — can you afford it?

With limited time left, 40,000 Australians miss out on suitable care

Why the 2024 – ‘25 Federal Budget has concerned advocates of older people

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