What you need to know about the latest reforms for Australia’s aged care sector

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By Martina Simos

This Aged Care Week 2023 (June 21 – June 23), The Greek Herald takes a look at the latest reforms the Federal Government has pledged to make to the aged care sector.

The Government has promised pay rises for aged care workers to try and address the shortage of staff, as well as changes to legislation and more in-home-care assistance. As our population ages, many older Australians are preferring to live independently in their own homes for longer while receiving aged care support.

A new regulatory model and framework – to be reflected in reforming of the aged care legislation – is part of the Government’s response to the needs of older Australians.

This reform aims to improve the quality and safety of aged care services to restore trust and confidence in aged care providers.

Pay rise for aged care workers:

In last month’s Federal Budget, the Government pledged to deliver a ‘once in a generation’ reform of aged care that also included a 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers from July 1.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler MP

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler MP, said the pay increase for aged care workers is the largest ever, making progress towards helping aged care providers to attract and retain staff.  

This would be particularly important for rural and remote areas where the aged care crisis has been ‘particularly acute’ with large workforce shortages.

“Aged care workers have been undervalued and underpaid for too long – we are supporting a wage increase for them because it’s the right thing to do,” Minister Butler said.

Home Care Packages:

The Budget also provided 9,500 additional Home Care Packages, to be released in 2023-24, and established new aged care assessment arrangements from July 2024.

From July 2024, there will be a new program that provides in-home care services for older Australians. This new program is called the Support at Home Program and it will replace the current Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP), Home Care Packages (HCP) Program and the Short Term Restorative Care (STRC) Programme.

Aged Care Taskforce and supporting Indigenous communities:

A new Aged Care Taskforce has been established to review aged care funding arrangements and develop options for a fairer and more equitable system.

The Taskforce will inform the final design of the Support at Home program in response to public feedback.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said increased taxes, as well as mean testing, will be considered by the task force into aged care sustainability. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen.

Systems will be developed for older people who require residential care to be able to choose their provider through a greater choice and control in decision making.

There is even a funding uplift to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program to build the capacity of Aboriginal Controlled Organisations, so that First Nations elders will continue to receive the care they need on Country.

Responding to the Royal Commission:

The Federal Government also responded to the 148 recommendations of a final report by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety to significantly reform the aged care sector.

The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Act 2020 received royal assent on 5 August 2022 and implemented nine measures to improve accountability and transparency and responds to 17 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The nine measures of aged care reforms include: 

  • Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) has been extended from residential aged care to include home care and flexible care delivered in a home or community setting.
  • Information sharing between Commonwealth agencies across aged care, veterans’ and disability sector under specific circumstances.
  • Code of conduct to approved providers, governing persons and aged care workers.
  • Star ratings for residential aged care.

The measures in this Act aim to ensure greater transparency and accountability of approved providers and improve quality of care and safety for older Australians receiving aged care services.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (Section 86) also identified that staffing issues are critical to the quality of aged care, with a recommendation of at least one registered nurse (RN) be on site per residential facility at all times.

Approved providers must have at least one RN on-site from 1 July 2023, and on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at each residential facility.  

Want to know more?

The suite of changes with the aged care reform will be presented on June 21-23 at the largest gathering of Australia’s aged care providers at ICC Sydney for the 4th Aged Care Week.

Around 400 attendees will take part in 60 sessions and hear from 80 residential providers presenting on Aged Care Workforce, Aged Care Tech, Aged Care Financial Sustainability and Care  Models and Customer Experience.

The event is organised by the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association (AHHA) – to present the Government’s plan to reform a sector that is facing challenges of increased costs, staff shortages and new compliance requirements.

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