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Labor’s aged care wins during their first 100 days in office

This week, the Federal Labor Government have reached the milestone of 100 days in office and have already shown signs of promising movements to benefit older Australians and those accessing aged care.

<p>The Labor Government recently celebrated a hundred days in office. [Source: Twitter]</p>

The Labor Government recently celebrated a hundred days in office. [Source: Twitter]

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was proud to say he was “wasting no time getting on with the job” of fixing the aged care system in his first few weeks in the role, especially implementing recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety that were yet to be acted on.

At the National Press Club, Prime Minister Albanese says, “we’ve been in government for 100 days… But my colleagues and I are not here to mark time”.

“We’re here to build the strong-growth, fair-wage, high productivity economy that will deliver the next generation of prosperity for Australians.”

A hundred days is only a small portion of the Government’s three-year term, but Labor has long pledged to fix the crisis in aged care, but what have they done so far?

Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill

On July 27, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill was introduced, containing nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system, and responded to 17 Recommendations in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

On August 3, that Bill was passed in Parliament, enabling major reform improvements to aged care.

This legislation includes a replacement of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) with a new aged care subsidy funding model – the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) model, which will be implemented from October 1, 2022.

AN-ACC aims to better match funding with provider’s costs of meeting the care needs of residents.

The Bill will also enable the Department of Health and Aged Care to publish star ratings for all residential aged care services by the end of 2022, allowing older people and their families to compare quality and safety performance of different services and providers.

From December 1, 2022, measures to extend the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) to all in‑home care providers and the introduction of a new Code of Conduct for approved aged care providers, workers and governing persons are set to be implemented.

Also on July 27, the Federal Government introduced new aged care reform under the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill.

The new legislation, if passed, requires a qualified Registered Nurse to be on site in every residential aged care home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ensuring older people living in residential aged care receive immediate care when needed.

The Bill is also said to place greater responsibility on aged care providers to be transparent and fair by publicising information about what they are spending money on.

Similarly, the Bill aims to stop the rorting of home care fees by placing a cap on how much can be charged in administration and management fees, meaning the money in your Home Care Package is going directly to care.

This Bill is currently being investigated by a Parliament Committee with consultation from the sector, but is expected to pass Parliament with amendments.

Fair Work Commission’s Aged Care Work Value Case

This month, the Federal Government made a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) Work Value Case, which fits Labor’s Election pledge to fully fund and support a pay rise for the industry’s workforce.

In its submission, the Government recommended that the FWC ensures that low-income wages, including aged care workers, do not go backwards but that they also should not automatically increase in line with inflation across-the-board.

Labor has indicated that not only will they fully fund the outcome of the Fair Work case, but that the pay increase should be substantial for aged care workers.

The hearing is still ongoing.

Aged Care COVID-19 support measures extended

The Government agreed to extend Aged Care COVID-19 support measures through to December 31, 2022.

The extended supports include:

  • Extension of supply through the National Medical Stockpile to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) support to residential aged care homes in an outbreak
  • Extension of access to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for residential aged care homes
  • Continued pathology in-reach testing in residential aged care
  • In-reach COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing provided by Sonic Healthcare to residential aged care homes managing COVID-19 outbreaks

Grants will remain open until January 31, 2023, to support aged care providers with the costs associated with COVID-19 incurred up to December 31, 2022.

Expanding the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme (PALM)

The aged care sector has been suffering through a workforce shortage for some time, prompting the Government to announce a policy change to prioritise and expand the Pacific Australia Labour MobilityScheme (PALM).

The PALM program allows Pacific Islander people to work in Australia for one to four years in rural and regional Australia. At present, PALM–PLS workers are not allowed to bring family members to Australia.

Now, Labor will allow primary visa holders in the PALM–PLS to bring their partners and children to Australia.

This program was also extended to include aged care as one of the sectors that would accept people from Pacific Islander nations.

This decision hopes to increase the program’s benefits to Pacific nations who can come to Australia and work in aged care.

ADF assistance extended

The Federal Government ended up extending the Australian Defence Force assistance in aged care after a surge in COVID-19 cases in aged care.

With added workforce shortages, Labor decided to extend the ADF assistance to ease staffing pressures.

The Government extended the ADF assistance through to the end of September.

It wasn’t just ADF assistance provided, the Government also made special ADF medical teams available to provide clinical, or non-clinical, workforce supplements in aged care facilities that need it.

How have you benefited from Labor’s aged care decisions? And are there any areas you think Labor needs to work on? Tell us in the comments below.

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