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Code of Conduct for Aged Care – what it means for consumers

The Federal Government is taking another step towards improving the safety and wellbeing of aged care residents with the introduction of the Code of Conduct (the Code) for Aged Care from 1 December 2022.

<p>The Code of Conduct will ensure aged care providers and their staff adhere to behaviours that treat clients with respect. [Source: iStock]</p>

The Code of Conduct will ensure aged care providers and their staff adhere to behaviours that treat clients with respect. [Source: iStock]

The Code aims to enhance the overall quality of life for people in residential aged care and those receiving home care support, while rebuilding trust in the services consumers receive.

You, as the consumer, will benefit directly from the Code. But what exactly does it include and how will it impact you?

What is the Code of Conduct for Aged Care?

The Code of Conduct for Aged Care was one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It will officially come into effect on 1 December 2022.

The Code outlines the expected behaviours of approved aged care providers, aged care workers and even governing persons – that is the board members and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). Those behaviours include their direct treatment of aged care consumers.

A draft of the Code was released by the Department of Health and Aged Care in early October and is currently open for public review and consultation until 18 October 2022.

The draft outlines the eight point Code of Conduct, in which a person or organisation providing care, supports or services must:

  • Respect people’s rights to freedom of expression, self-determination and decision-making
  • Treat people with dignity and respect, and value their diversity
  • Respect their privacy
  • Provide care, supports and services in a safe and competent manner, with care and skill
  • Act with integrity, honesty and transparency
  • Promptly take steps to raise and act on concerns about matters that may impact the quality and safety of care, supports and services
  • Provide care, supports and services free from violence, discrimination, exploitation, neglect, abuse and sexual misconduct
  • Take all reasonable steps to prevent and respond to all forms of violence, discrimination, exploitation, neglect, abuse and sexual misconduct

These eight points could provide greater safeguards to aged care consumers and reduce bad behaviour and care within the aged care sector.

Who does the Code apply to?

It is important to note that the Code applies to all aged care staff, whether they are full-time, contracted or voluntary, and their behaviour towards care recipients.

Therefore, any staff you interact with through residential care, short term care or home care will be required to adhere to it, with two exceptions.

The Code will not include supports provided by the Government funded Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) or the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program (NATSIFACP).

While this Code will not be placed on workers of the CHSP or NATSIFACP, there is still an expectation that those providers will still adhere to the Code and its expected behaviours.

Additionally, as a consumer, you are still within your rights to expect high-quality care from the people that provide it.

What impact will this have on you?

As the consumer, you might not see any changes to the services you receive. This Code will reinforce the expectations around safe, respectful and consistent care.

If you have experienced care that does not meet the standards outlined in the Code, it is an additional layer of client protection.

Previous attempts to introduce industry-wide codes of conduct have fallen short, with 2021’s Voluntary Industry Code of Practice for Aged Care only adopted by roughly 100 care providers across Australia.

The official draft of the Code, with the intention of launching early December, means the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission can step in if any complaints regarding services and behaviour are not resolved in the way you hope.

While the Commission has always been involved in the complaints process, the official introduction of an official Code of Conduct will better protect the rights and quality of life for people receiving aged care services from approved providers.

If your concerns are not addressed by your provider, the Commission may take further action once they have investigated your complaint. This could include potential actions like banning individuals from working in aged care.

For more information on the Code of Conduct for Aged Care or to provide feedback on the current draft, please visit the Department of Health and Aged Care website.

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