What to Expect: Key Aged Care Reforms in Australia

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The Aged Care Act, enacted by the Australian government, serves as the legislative framework for the provision of aged care services that outlines the rights and duties of care recipients and providers to ensure quality care and equal access.

Looking ahead, the Australian government is in the process of developing a new Aged Care Act to bolster the nation’s aged care system. This upcoming legislation seeks to guarantee that individuals accessing government-funded aged care services are treated with dignity and enjoy an improved quality of life.

In 2024, significant reforms are set to reshape aged care services in Australia. These changes are aimed at tackling systemic issues and elevating the standard of care for the elderly, promising a more robust and compassionate support network.

Are you ready for the significant aged care reforms in Australia coming in 2024? Let’s uncover what lies ahead for Australia’s ageing population and the caregivers who support them.

Understanding Aged Care Act

At present, aged care is governed by aged care law. However, the Australian government is working on developing a new Aged Care Act that will replace these existing laws.

  • The Aged Care Act 1997,
  • The Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997, and
  • The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Act 2018.

This new Act aims to improve the services provided to older people, whether at home, in community settings, or in approved residential aged care facilities.

Key Components of the Aged Care Act

  1. Rights of Older Australians: The Act enshrines the rights of older Australians to receive high-quality care that respects their dignity and autonomy.
  2. Provider Obligations: Aged care providers must adhere to strict standards of care, including safety, hygiene, and the provision of appropriate services tailored to individual needs.
  3. Quality Standards: The Act establishes quality standards that govern all aspects of aged care, from staffing ratios to facility maintenance, with a focus on continuous improvement.
  4. Funding and Subsidies: It outlines the mechanisms for funding aged care services, including subsidies for eligible recipients and providers.

9 Aged Care Reforms in Australia

Care Minutes in Aged Care

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has found that the presence of a Registered Nurse on-site and on duty is crucial to maintaining the quality of care in aged care homes. The Australian Government has taken action based on the findings.

Effective 1 July 2023, this measure mandates that each residential aged care facility have at least one registered nurse on-site and on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This rule ensures that residents always have access to qualified and experienced care staff. Registered Nurses can identify and mitigate potential risks, manage medical issues and emergencies, and prevent unnecessary hospital visits.

Starting from October 1, 2024, each resident will receive 215 minutes of care per day on average, including 44 minutes of direct care from a registered nurse throughout the sector.

Transparency in Enrolled Nurse Care Minutes Reporting:

The amount of care provided by Enrolled Nurses in residential aged care facilities will be made publicly available, alongside star ratings, on the ‘Find a Provider’ website of My Aged Care. This transparency allows individuals to access information about the level of care provided by Enrolled Nurses when selecting an aged care provider.

Aged care homes are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars for their Overall Star Rating and across each of the 4 sub-categories. In general, the more stars a home has, the better the quality of care.

Notable Improvement Required
Improvement Required
Acceptable
Good
Outstanding

Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS) Expansion into Home Services:

From 1 December 2022, the SIRS extends its coverage from residential aged care to home care and flexible care delivered in a home or community setting. This expansion provides greater protection to older Australians receiving care outside residential facilities.

Code of Conduct for Aged Care:

A comprehensive Code of Conduct has been introduced for aged care providers, their workers, and governing persons. This code outlines the expected standards of behaviour and ethics, ensuring the dignity and rights of aged care recipients are upheld. Here are the codes of conduct that need to be followed in aged care:

  1. Respect the rights of individuals to express themselves freely, make decisions autonomously, and exercise self-determination in compliance with relevant laws and conventions.
  2. Treat individuals with dignity, acknowledging their diversity and valuing their uniqueness.
  3. Safeguard the privacy of individuals at all times.
  4. Deliver care, support, and services competently and safely, demonstrating care and skill.
  5. Conduct all actions with integrity, honesty, and transparency.
  6. Address and act promptly on any concerns that may impact the quality and safety of care, support, and services.
  7. Ensure that care, support, and services are provided in an environment free from violence, discrimination, exploitation, neglect, abuse, and sexual misconduct.
  8. Take proactive measures to prevent and respond to instances of violence, discrimination, exploitation, neglect, abuse, and sexual misconduct.

Strengthening Provider Governance:

Approved providers are now subject to new governance responsibilities, including requirements for governing body membership and the establishment of consumer and clinical advisory bodies. These measures aim to improve aged care organisations’ leadership, culture, and accountability.

Legislative Increased Care Minutes:

Currently, from October 2023, the nationwide average across all aged care sector is as follows:

  • Residents receive an average of 200 minutes of personal and nursing care per day. This care is provided by either a Registered Nurse, Enrolled Nurse, or Personal Care Worker/Assistant in Nursing.
  • Specifically, residents receive approximately 40 minutes of nursing care per day from a Registered Nurse.

In essence, individuals residing in aged care homes receive an average of 200 minutes of care daily, with at least 40 minutes provided by a Registered Nurse.

It’s important to note that these care minute targets represent averages for all residents, and actual care time may vary based on individual needs.

Strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards:

The Department of Health and Aged Care is finalising its review to deliver a set of strengthened Quality Standards. The new strengthened Quality Standards are:

  • Standard 1: The Person
  • Standard 2: The Organisation
  • Standard 3: The Care and Services
  • Standard 4: The Environment
  • Standard 5: Clinical Care*
  • Standard 6: Food and Nutrition
  • Standard 7: The Residential Community

These revised standards aim to elevate the quality of care provided by aged care services, with the Commission playing a key role in their development and implementation. Note that these Quality Standards are currently not in effect and will only be implemented with the new Aged Care Act.

Support at Home Program:

The “Support at Home” program is a new initiative starting in 2025 aimed at providing better services for older people to help them stay healthy, active, and connected to their communities. It will replace existing programs like Home Care Packages and Short-Term Restorative Care.

The rollout will occur in two stages, with the first stage beginning on July 1, 2025, and the second stage expected no earlier than July 1, 2027. The transition is being done gradually to minimise disruptions to current services.

Transitioning to a Person-Centred Residential Aged Care System:

Starting July 1, 2024, a new aged care approach will prioritise older Australians’ needs. Under this system, older Australians can choose their care providers, giving them more control.

Ending bed licenses on June 30, 2024, empowers providers to make independent business decisions and develop innovative care models tailored to the desires of older Australians.

Why it Matters:

The change addresses limitations in the current system, offering:

  • Better quality care through increased competition.
  • More choices for older Australians.

By removing allocated places for providers, the goal is to foster a strong market with innovative and financially viable care options.

Approved providers have transitional support until June 30, 2024. During this transitional period, providers will have guidelines and support to adapt to the changes in the aged care programs and ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements that will be implemented thereafter.

Summing Up

Australia is on the brink of significant reforms in aged care, promising better support for older Australians, their families, and caregivers. Focusing on personalised care and transparency, these aged care reform aims to uplift the quality of aged care services nationwide, ensuring dignity and quality of life for all.

Are you unsure about how these changes might affect you or a loved one? Whether you’re navigating the system for yourself or a loved one, staying informed is crucial. At Wise Choice, we’re dedicated to helping you understand the latest changes and make informed decisions about aged care options. Contact us today for a free consultation and let our experienced team guide you through reforms in aged care.

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