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Changes to ACAT/S and the scepticism around the decision

The Government will be going out to tender this year to both the private sector and current industry organisations to fill a single Aged Care Assessment Team/Service (ACAT/S) force, which will be implemented in April 2021.

The Government says the aim of the change to the ACAT/S arrangement is to help older Australians receive the services they require sooner. [Source: Shutterstock]
The Government says the aim of the change to the ACAT/S arrangement is to help older Australians receive the services they require sooner. [Source: Shutterstock]

In late December, the Federal Government announced they will be amalgamating the ACAT/S with the Regional Assessment Service (RAS), to streamline consumer assessments and access to aged care pathways.

This decision has followed a legislated review of the aged care system by David Tune in 2016-2017, suggesting that the ACAT/S and RAS needed to become a single assessment system, which received principal support from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The Government says the aim of the change to the ACAT/S arrangement is to help older Australians receive the services they require sooner.

Minister Colbeck says, “This will help people to be connected to care sooner, reduce duplication and inefficiencies, and stop a revolving door of assessments where vulnerable older people get sent to multiple organisations depending on the programs for which they are eligible.”

Concerns around the potential “privatisation” of the ACAT/S System

A number of organisations and peak bodies have alleged that the Government is attempting to “privatise” the ACAT system since the Government announced they were going out to tender in 2020.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has had to deny they endorse the privatisation of the ACAT/S system.

Chair of the Aged Care Royal Commission, Commissioner Gaeteno Pagone QC, released a statement denying the Interim Report released in October supported privatisation of the ACAT system.

Commissioner Pagone says, “Public concern has been expressed about statements made by the Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians that we had decided to support the privatisation of the Aged Care Assessment Teams in our Interim Report. 

“I take this opportunity to make clear that the Interim Report did not endorse the Government’s stated position but noted that we would monitor with interest the implementation which the Government had announced.”

Outcry over the “privatisation” of ACAT/S’s and the new changes

A number of organisations and people have spoken out against the ACAT change, including New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard, who described the change as lacking “logic”. 

Federal Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, Julie Collins, described the Minister for Aged Care’s ACAT/S changes being released just before Christmas as “sneaky” and “deeply concerning”.

“There is already an experienced, well qualified and well trained workforce making aged care assessments across the country. The Morrison Government should come clean on why they would want to privatise these assessments and outsource this work,” says Minister Collins.

“It makes no sense to make this decision before the Final Report of the Aged Care Royal Commission is released in November.”

Also against the alleged “privatisation” of ACAT is the Doctors Reform Society, an organisation of doctors supporting improvements to health.

Dr Tim Woodruff, President of the Doctors Reform Society, says, “We note with deep concern that the Federal Government has announced it is starting the privatisation process of the Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT).

“This taxpayer funded and Government run scheme which assesses what help our older Australians need, whether it be help in the home, or a move to supported accommodation.

“It has done this with the full knowledge that its own Royal Commission into Aged Care is deeply concerned about the appropriateness of market forces to deliver care to those needing aged care. It is planning a full report with funding recommendations by November 2020.

“Nothing in this interim report suggests that a way forward is to privatise anything. Indeed, the report has clear concerns about ‘the market’.

“A privatised ACAT will be a race to the bottom. Poorly trained assessors will inadequately assess complex patient needs as they gouge Government fees for their private owners and force the dedicated assessors out of the system because they will not be profitable.”

Minister Colbeck has since stated that the aged care assessment changes are not being privatised, because government agencies and current assessment organisations will also be involved in the tender process.

“The Government has consistently refuted claims that our intention is to privatise the assessment process for aged care. That assertion is incorrect,” says Minister Colbeck.

“The Government is completely cognisant of the view the Royal Commission has expressed in its interim report regarding the integration of these assessment services as reiterated by Commissioner Pagone [last week].

“The objective of the Government’s current process is to achieve that outcome. We would welcome any views the Royal Commission has in respect of completion of this integration process.”

More questions?

On 12 February, the Department of Health will be holding a webinar explaining the development of the new aged care assessment arrangements.

They will be answering common questions they received during the last December 2019 webinar.

Participants will be able to ask questions about the changes from the Department of Health representatives.

To find out more, head to the Department of Health website

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