The Royal Commission into Aged Care, initially triggered by a two-part report on the ABC’s investigative program Four Corners, published an extensive list of recommendations for aged care reforms to help the aged care industry move forward and deliver quality care to elderly Australians.
Let’s look at how these recommendations and reforms are going:
What was the Royal Commission into Aged Care?
The Australian Government established a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in 2018 to review our aged care system and to find ways to ensure all elderly Australians receive quality care when they need it.
During the royal commission twenty-three hearings and workshops were conducted, and over 10,000 submissions were received.
The final report, titled Dignity, Care and Respect delivered close to 150 recommendations for the fundamental reform of the aged care system.
What has happened so far:
Increased access to Goods, Equipment and Assistive Technology (GEAT)
Home Care Package recipients who urgently need goods, equipment and assistive technology can now access up to $2,500 for equipment through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
Goods, Equipment and Assistive Technology (GEAT) are items that can help you to cope with functional limitations and maintain your independence at home.
Examples that may be covered by your Home Care Package include shower chairs and dressing aids, specialised eating utensils, personal alarms, sensor mats, bed rails, mechanical devices for lifting and modified appliances.
New Code of Conduct for Aged Care
Based on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) Code of Conduct, the new Code of Conduct for Aged Care is designed to help build confidence in the safety and quality of care for older Australians.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission now monitors compliance. It has new powers to take enforcement action for breaches of the code. This includes banning or restricting individuals from working in aged care.
Home Care Package administration fees were capped
To reduce excessive administration and management charges and ensure that more funds are available to meet the needs of home care recipients, the following caps were set from 1 January 2023:
- Care management prices are capped at 20% of the package level
- Package management prices are capped at 15% of the package level
- Providers cannot charge for package management in a calendar month where no services (other than care management) are delivered, except for the first month of care
- Providers cannot charge separately for third-party services
- Providers cannot charge exit amounts.
Wage increase for aged care workers
A 15% increase to the award wages for registered nurses, enrolled nurses, assistants in nursing, personal care workers and home care workers, head chefs and cooks and recreational activities offers was implemented on 1 July 2023.
The Australian Government is investing $11.3billion over four years on what is the largest ever pay increase for aged care workers. The wages increase aims to help aged care providers attract and retain staff and deliver cost-of-living relief for more than 250,000 aged care workers.
Registered Nurses onsite 24/7 at residential aged care facilities
From 1 July 2023, residential aged care facilities must have at least one registered nurse on duty at all times.
The Royal Commission identified that staffing levels are critical to the quality of residential care, and this new mandate reduces the risk of resident harm by ensuring qualified and experienced care staff are always available to identify and address potential risks.
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What is next?
Mandatory care minutes for aged care residents
Mandatory care minute targets will be introduced within residential aged care facilities from 1 October 2023. ‘Care minutes’ refers to the number of minutes of care time that government-funded residential aged care residents must receive from registered nurses (RNs), enrolled nurses (ENs), personal care workers (PCWs) or assistants in nursing (AINs) – also known as nursing assistants.
The Australian Government is providing extra funding to all residential aged care services to ensure they have an appropriate mix of RNs, ENs and PCWs/AINs and meet their care minute responsibility.
From 1 October 2023, an extra $5.4 billion will be delivered over 4 years to support providers to deliver 200 care minutes per resident per day.
From October 2024 residential aged care providers must deliver 215 minutes of care per resident per day, including 44 minutes of registered nurse time.
More transparency and accountability
The Royal Commission recommended that older people have better access to information about provider operations. Financial information about residential aged care providers, home care and transition care providers will be published on the My Aged Care website from January 2024.
A new program for in-home care
The Home Care Package Program and Commonwealth Home Support Program have been extended until June 2025.
The new Support at Home Program will start from 1 July 2025.
Initially due to be implemented in July 2024, the Support at Home Program is being refined with input from experts across a range of design elements and further consultation with older people and in-home aged care providers.
Older people, their carers, families and aged care providers and health professionals can stay informed and access opportunities to be part of the Support at Home Program consultation process by signing up to the Aged Care Engagement Hub.
Read more about CHSP and Home Care Packages: All about CHSP – the Commonwealth Home Support Program (agedcaredecisions.com.au)
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