On 14 December 2023, the Department of Health and Aged Care released the Exposure Draft for the proposed Bill to introduce a new Aged Care Act.
Exposure Draft Aged Care Act Now Open for Consultation
As a provider of Aged Care services, you’re probably aware that this new Act is part of a raft of changes being put forward in response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, including the already released Aged Care Quality Standards due to take effect in 2024. It will also align with the Support @ Home program which will replace the Home Care Packages (HCP) Programme and Short-Term Restorative Care (STRC) Programme from 1 July 2025, and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP) planned for 1 July 2027.
The proposed rights-based Aged Care Act will cover the way services are delivered to older people in:
- their homes
- community settings
- approved residential aged care homes
Some key highlights include:
1. The Objects (purpose) of the Act are to:
- put older people at the centre
- have a clear reference to the Statement of Rights
- have sustainable funding with support provided by a diverse, skilled and experienced workforce.
2. Registered providers of aged care services must not act in a way that is incompatible with the Statement the Rights.
3. Providers of aged care services must be registered according to categories based on risk (Level 1 being the lowest risk and Level 6 being the highest risk with some adjustments from the initially drafted levels).
- Existing Approved Providers will be auto-enrolled into their relevant Categories from June 2024 (with consultation)
- New providers will need to register to become approved according to the new categories from 30 June 2024
- Continuity of Care to remain with existing providers for care recipients
4. The introduction of Associated Providers - a provider that can deliver services for a registered provider (and doesn't have to be registered themselves). Note that the registered provider would hold responsibility for any associated providers they use.
5. Access and assessment processes for older people receiving funding (and those seeking funding) will be streamlined
6. More powers for the Aged Care regulator as well as new civil and criminal penalties (still in development)
Not surprisingly there are some obvious similarities drawn from the NDIS scheme and how it operates, although it is not yet clear if further adjustments will be made given the recent release of the NDIS Final Report. In any case, we hope that the learnings from both Royal Commissions will be considered across both sectors as improvements are made.
Consultation is open now until 16 February 2024. If you have concerns or suggestions with the proposed Act, participating in the consultation period is the most effective way to have your say. Ensure you have read and reviewed the available information so you can provide constructive feedback. More information about how you can get involved with the consultation process is available on the Department of Health and Aged Care’s website.
What does this mean for Providers?
While it seems that there are still more questions than answers as the programs transition, what is known is that changes are certainly coming and Aged Care Providers will need to be across the impacts on their services and be ready for them in 2024.
But one step at a time! The changes continue to be taken in a staged approach as per the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Aged Care Reform Road Map. Keep the focus on your clients and delivering the high standard of care they should expect, support your workforce and their professional development, and maintain your audit preparedness.
You can stay up to date with news and information about when new changes are coming into effect and what they mean for you with Provider Institute.
Christine Dempsey is a Managing Director of the Provider Institute of Australia, a national compliance support service for NDIS and other community sector providers. Christine has extensive experience supporting businesses to operate in sectors heavily regulated by government and has supported hundreds of NDIS providers to build their NDIS compliance requirements into their everyday practice.Visit Author