Jun 11, 2024

Aged Care Providers Raise Red Flags on Proposed Aged Care Act

Aged Care Providers Raise Red Flags on Proposed Aged Care Act
Terms such as 'sickness' were criticised for being ageist, implying that aged care recipients are fragile and dependent. [CoPilot}.

The Government’s anticipated introduction of a new Aged Care Act is progressing, following the release of a consultation feedback report highlighting significant concerns from providers and stakeholders.

The consultation feedback reveals that aged care providers are apprehensive about the high expectations set by the new Act, particularly the rights of residents to equitable access to services and freedom of choice.

“Certain rights, such as ‘equitable access’ and ‘freedom of choice’, could create exceedingly high expectations from older people, which aged care providers may find difficult to meet,” the report noted.

Providers expressed concerns that the aspirational nature of these rights might lead to an influx of complaints and additional regulatory action if they are not fully upheld. The report highlighted that stakeholders were worried about the feasibility of meeting these high standards, especially in regional, rural, and remote locations where resources are already stretched thin.

Definitions and Language

The consultation also pointed out issues with the language and definitions used in the draft Act. For example, the term ‘aged care worker’ was contentious, as it included volunteers. Stakeholders argued for a clear distinction between paid employees, carers, and volunteers to better represent their different roles and responsibilities.

Moreover, terms such as ‘sickness’ were criticised for being ageist, implying that aged care recipients are fragile and dependent. There were calls for more inclusive language that supports reablement and independent living.

Similarly, the use of ‘connected to island home’ was seen as confusing, with suggestions for more appropriate language, especially for First Nations people, who preferred ‘connected to country’.

Workforce and Regulatory Concerns

Responses to the proposed statutory duties and regulations for registered providers, aged care workers, and digital platforms indicated a cautious approach from stakeholders.

While there was support for improved governance and protection measures, there were significant concerns about the practical implications, particularly regarding workforce impacts.

Providers highlighted the issue of workforce shortages, with current screening and background checks potentially eliminating skilled individuals due to minor historic criminal convictions.

This concern was especially pertinent for First Nations people, who are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. Stakeholders suggested increased flexibility in including aged care workers with minor historic criminal convictions.

There were also calls for digital platform operators to become registered providers to ensure user protection, and for increased regulation and oversight to protect the personal data of older people.

Providers requested clear timelines for decisions made by the Government, as the exposure draft only sets out required timeframes for providers.

Financial Pressures and Funding

Aged care providers, including Anglicare, HammondCare, and Uniting, raised concerns about the financial pressures on the sector.

They called for the legislation to include a commitment for the Commonwealth to fund aged care services adequately to meet the obligations under the proposed legislation.

The Aged Care Taskforce had previously recommended reforms to fees and funding across home and residential care, suggesting wealthier Baby Boomers entering care fund daily expenses such as meals and laundry.

However, the federal government has ruled out changes to how the family home is means-tested when determining fees.

Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Tom Symondson, Chief Executive of the Aged & Community Care Providers Association, stressed the need for a balanced approach that accounts for circumstances beyond providers’ control, such as funding.

“Funding must match expectations and requirements around services and quality; it is well recognised that aged care funding needs to be increased to improve the viability of the sector,” he said.

Balancing Rights and Responsibilities

While supporting a rights-based act, providers emphasised the need to balance the rights of residents with those of aged care staff. The proposed legislation must recognise the competing rights in aged care, including the rights of aged care workers to work in a safe environment, free from abuse, discrimination, or harassment.

Patricia Sparrow, Chief Executive of the Council on the Ageing, told the Sydney Morning Herald that she was baffled by the notion that the expectations of older people were too high. “We can’t be kind to people? We can’t give people respect? I don’t understand why that is a problem, I really don’t,” she said. Sparrow stressed the importance of keeping residents’ rights at the centre of the new Act.

Next Steps

The feedback report indicates that the Department will now consider relevant feedback and make necessary revisions to the exposure draft before it is introduced to Parliament. The new Aged Care Act is set to commence on 1 July 2025, aligning with the launch of the new Support at Home program. The full feedback report can be viewed on the Department’s website.

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  1. It seems that providers are seeking more and more of the aged care pie. The percentage taken from the package is often more than 30% to cover “overheads”. Perhaps providers need to run a more efficient office. Some are charging over $100 per hour to clean a small house. Some are charging $165 per hour to mow a lawn. These are not skilled jobs. If they averaged 5 jobs a day on those rates their weekly earnings are from $2500 to $4125 per week. My daughter with professional skills would love to earn that sort of money.
    NDIS fees are even more excessive and even could be called outrageous.

  2. It is good that the new Aged Care Act has more time to get it right. But it’s not much time.
    The new Act must be about the outcome for those using Aged Care. Of course we cannot place unreasonable demands on Providers, but having safe, hygenic, abuse free and incompetence free Aged Care Services is not an unreasonable demand.
    A complaints system that works, Regulation that is easily understood and practical, Staff that are trained enough to work effectively and safely, a staff Registration system that is visible across all Care Sectors and transparency are all achievable.
    Don’t give up on making this new Act work for everyone.

  3. If it wasn’t for the Residents, the Aged Care workforce wouldn’t exist & thus wouldn’t have a job. I strongly disagree that Residents expectations may be “too high”. They have a right to have “high” expectations as they pay very high $$$ to live in Aged Care.
    Volunteers definitely should be treated separately from paid workers in the Act as their responsibilities differ greatly.
    The Government needs to wake up to very wealthy Residents not paying what they should. Homes valued over $700K ($500K in Regional) should be included in Assets when assessing how much a Resident should pay.

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