Advocates are calling for “social and emotional” services to be covered under the future care minutes model and new funding model, as, currently, these new aged care reform changes do “not count” allied health services part of this new system.
Providers must be delivering an average of 200 care minutes a day per resident – an extra 20 minutes for each person – by October 2023. And this rises to 215 care minutes per resident per day by 2024.
Additionally, on the first of October, the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model kicked in, where Government funding per resident rose from about $192 to $225.
As recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the AN-ACC funding model classifies residents by their level of need and they can retain a higher level of funding if their health and mobility improves.
But this funding only covers the time a resident spends with a personal care worker or nurse and does not cover allied health services, like social workers and psychologists, as well as some leisure activities and social outings often organised by a residential aged care lifestyle coordinator.
Bronwyn Morris-Donovan, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of peak body Allied Health Professions Australia (AHPA) said allied health services, including occupational therapy, speech therapy and art therapies, are disappointed that these valuable services do not count towards aged care minutes.
“Since the Aged Care Royal Commission, AHPA has been calling for a multidisciplinary allied health team approach built into the provision of allied health services so that people are assessed for their actual needs,” she said.
“Residents could have a clinical assessment by a multidisciplinary allied health team – which can consider issues like speech therapy, occupational therapy, and psychology in addition to physiotherapy – after receiving their AN-ACC funding allocation.”
However, allied health services have been neglected from these funding and care minute changes, which may result in less of a focus on wellbeing services in aged care.
A spokesperson for Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the funding increase meant that “social care, such as social activities and lifestyle, will still be funded and are still required to be delivered by residential aged care providers”.
However, “More care minutes means more time for checking in with residents, meals, showers, dressing and wound management,” said the spokesperson.
Australian Health Services Research Institute Director, Professor Kathy Eagar, recommended in her evidence to the Royal Commission that an extra 22 minutes a day of allied healthcare – from clinicians including psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and physiotherapists – should be directly funded.
But the Commission declined to recommend this, instead indicating the Government should separately pay for these services through the health system.
Ms Morris-Donovan added that while there was no universally accepted definition of “allied health professions”, Government departments, health service providers, health insurers and education providers include different professions under the heading ‘allied health’.
AHPA submitted proposals to the recent Aged Care Workforce Roundtable, held on August 18, convened by the Minister for Aged Care where the Minister called for solutions from stakeholders.
The proposals AHPA provided include the development of a cross-sector National Allied Health Workforce Strategy and the integration of allied health into the broader health and care systems.