The prioritisation of aged care reform began in Canberra yesterday with both care reform and Aged Care Royal Commission response bills being introduced on the Albanese Government’s first day in Parliament.
The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment Bill was a response to the Royal Commission’s findings, which will continue reforms that were originally outlined by the previous Morrison Government.
This Bill will see the implementation of 14 Royal Commission recommendations which include new funding for residential aged care, a new code of conduct for staff, an Independent Pricing Authority for aged care services and Star Ratings for aged care providers, along with greater oversight and stronger governance requirements.
The Care Amendment Bill will implement a number of new reforms proposed by the Albanese Government during their Election campaign, including the promise of aged care homes having at least one registered nurse on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by mid-2023.
This new bill will also provide aged consumers with more transparency by forcing providers to publish data on finances and other measurements of care performance.
The same bill will also give Government the power to cap Home Care Package fees and remove exit fees.
Overall, industry figures and aged care lobby groups have reacted positively to the news of new aged care reforms. However, there have also been suggestions for refinement and calls for more clarity regarding the logistics of implementation.
Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), Paul Sadler, was among the first to offer an opinion on what these new reforms could mean for the sector.
“Most of the schedules in the Royal Commission Response Bill were scrutinised by a select committee in the previous Parliament, so ACCPA is comfortable to support its passage quickly.”
While Mr Sadler did support the delivery of the Albanese Government’s election commitment “in principle”, he also flagged the potential impact of current staffing shortages on the introduction of 24/7 registered nurses across the sector and indicated ACCPA’s wishes to work with the Government on the implementation of this reform.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) also shared its thoughts on the new reforms with Manager of Policy and Systemic Advocacy, Samantha Edmonds, stating that she believes that this new legislation will work to ensure that older people receive the appropriate level of care when entering the aged care system.
“A funding model that supports a consumer-directed approach within the residential setting is a much-needed improvement.
“OPAN welcomes the application of the code to governing persons, who set the culture of an organisation and therefore should be held to the same, if not higher, level of accountability.”
Ms Edmond adds that OPAN supports the additional powers given to the Age Commissioner in relation to failure to comply with the new code, responding to alleged breaches of the code and enforcing compliance with the code.
While acknowledging that reforming the aged care system is a complex challenge, Ms Edmonds also flagged some recommendations that she would like to see as part of the new legislation for the sector.
“We encourage the Government to consider expanding the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) model to encompass social and leisure activities, which are crucial to older people’s health and well-being,” said Ms Edmond.
Rebekah Sharkie, Member of Parliament (MP), has also praised yesterday’s announcement which included the capping of aged care management and administration fees – a large element of her Private Member’s Bill.
However, Ms Sharkie did express concern regarding the lack of information on how management fees would be capped and the lack of a region-specific funding model.
“I will continue to advocate for greater transparency and propose aged care providers be required to disclose executive salaries and profits.”