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Significant Step Forwards in Aged Care Reform

The allocation of 80,000 new home care packages worth $6.5 billion and a basic daily fee increase for residential providers are the centrepiece of a raft of aged care reforms which start today. 

 

In a continued response to the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the latest measures from the Government put the health and wellbeing of senior Australians first. 

 

It is another step in the Government’s implementation of generational reform. From today, aged care providers must review the quality of their daily living services – with a particular focus on food and nutrition – to receive a new $10 per resident per day Government Basic Daily Fee supplement. Residential aged care providers will be required to report on a quarterly basis from 2021-22, with the first report due in October 2021. This significant funding boost, worth $3.2 billion over five years, will provide a broad funding uplift to support the sector to deliver better care and services for residents.

 

The new reporting requirements will strengthen provider accountability. A key focus of the reporting requirements will be to ensure providers are delivering high quality services to meet the living needs of residents, with a focus on food and nutrition. The new supplement will be paid monthly, with the first payment to be made in early August based on residents in care in July. To start receiving the payment providers will need to make an undertaking to the Department that they will provide good quality and quantity of goods and services to meet the living needs of resident and meet the quarterly reporting obligations. The undertaking must be made by 21 July 2021, and payment will cease if the reporting obligations are not met. 

 

The 30 per cent increase in the homeless and viability supplements paid to the residential sector would also continue to ensure providers are well placed to keep offering services, especially to vulnerable senior Australians. The allocation of 80,000 new home care packages would ensure senior Australians could live at home for longer. 

 

Over the coming two years, 80,000 new home care packages will be steadily released, which will build on the 83,105 packages released since the 2018‑19 Budget. This equates to more than 750 packages each week. Our Government is supporting more senior Australians who choose to remain in their homes for longer as they age. According to latest data there are 167,124 senior Australians receiving services through a package as at 31 March 2021. 

 

Home care packages have increased from 59,300 under Labor in 2011-12 to 275,597 forecast for 2024-25, an increase of 365 per cent. Over the same period, funding will increase by 576 per cent due to growth in high-level home care packages. Additionally, from today, measures will be implemented to reduce the use of restrictive practices. 

 

The Aged Care and Other Legislative Amendment (Royal Commission Response No.1) Bill 2021 will-

 

Strengthen regulation for the use of restrictive practices, such as chemical and physical restraint, as a last resort

Establish assurance review arrangements for home care delivery and administration and

Abolish the requirement for the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) to make way for new governance arrangements.  

The new provisions in the legislation clarify and strengthen provider responsibilities. Use of alternative behaviour management strategies will now ensure safer care for those most vulnerable receiving care, particularly those living with dementia. 

Increased regulation, training and oversight on the use of restraints will help carers, the aged care workforce, and the sector comply with the strengthened legislation, facilitating safer and higher quality care for senior Australians. Assurance reviews will also apply to up to 500 home care providers each year, from November 2021. The reviews will examine fees and charges applied by home care providers, to ensure senior Australians are not facing unjustified costs. 

 

Other important reforms starting today include-

 

$178.9 million for Primary Health Networks (PHN) to support senior Australians’ health, including improved access to telehealth care and enhanced out of hours support for aged care residents, new health pathways to support assessment and referral, and early monitoring and identification of health needs to support people to live at home for longer

Additional funding of $125.7 million over four years to support the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Care services and Multi-Purpose Services

$45.4 million for medication management in residential aged care, including the use of electronic national residential medication charts

$42.8 million to boost the Aged Care Access Incentive to increase face-to-face servicing by general practitioners in residential aged care

$37.3 million to expand the Greater Choice for At Home Palliative Care initiative to all 31 PHNs

Support for expanded independent advocacy to deliver greater choice for senior Australians, improved quality safeguards, and diversity assistance for providers

Enhanced reporting for residential aged care providers to meet financial and prudential monitoring requirements to improve compliance and intervention   

The assumption of responsibility of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care for setting clinical care components of the aged care quality standards and

Work to establish a local network of Department of Health aged care staff to focus on stewardship and coordination of aged care services, starting with eight PHN regions.  

 

The Aged Care Sector Committee will also finish and be replaced with the new National Aged Care Advisory Council. A dedicated Council of Elders for senior Australians will be established to provide advice to Government, informed by experience, to ensure those who are most central to the system can help direct and shape the way it operates. 

 

Membership arrangements for the new National Aged Care Advisory Council and Council of Elders are currently being considered.