In the wake of two new aged care bills passing through the Lower House in Parliament yesterday, there have been some last-minute refinements to some of the Albanese Government’s Election promises.
Despite pledges made during the Federal Election campaign, the Albanese Government will now defer the introduction of a new in home care program until July 2024, one year later than what was promised by the previous Morrison Government.
The Support at Home Program is meant to replace the current help at home programs, such as the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCPs), the Short Term Restorative Care program, and residential respite referrals.
The new start date for the Support at Home Program is now in line with original recommendations made by the Aged Care Royal Commission.
In a statement from industry peak body Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Sadler said that deferring the start date of the program will allow providers to maintain focus on battling the current challenges presented by winter’s Omicron wave.
“We have been working with the Support at Home Alliance, which includes Commonwealth Home Support provider peak bodies (e.g. Meals on Wheels, Community Transport & Home Modifications), local Government representatives and ethnic communities, to develop a model for how the new program could operate.”
In addition to the delay of the new in-home care program, it has been revealed that the new Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill will allow aged care providers to seek an exemption from the 24/7 nursing mandate.
The promise of having at least one Registered Nurse on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by mid-2023, was one of the Albanese Government’s key promises throughout their Election campaign earlier this year.
While there is yet to be an indication of what criteria might warrant an exemption, the mandate has been previously flagged as a daunting challenge for residential aged care homes in rural communities that traditionally struggle to attract staff.
Depending on the criteria, exemptions may also offer some reprieve to providers due to the sector-wide staff shortages resulting from winter’s Omicron wave.
In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Sadler indicated that one in five aged care providers would be currently unable to have a Registered Nurse on site for night shift.
Additionally, Mr Sadler says that requiring a Registered Nurse on site on weekends would also be difficult given current staffing challenges.
He also echoed previous sentiments about the challenges of recruiting Registered Nurses in regional and rural areas, adding that staff shortages have been impacted by the number of nurses that are currently sick.