What is the Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care Program?
Older Australians deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. They have the right to receive care and services that are safe, compassionate and of high quality.
To ensure that older Australians receive consistent quality care and services, Aged Care Quality Standards (the Standards) were developed. These Standards define the kind of aged care that providers need to deliver.
Our role is to make sure that aged care providers are providing care and services that meet these Standards. We regulate providers and take action when providers are not meeting their obligations.
In 2021, the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety recommended that the current Standards be reviewed. The Royal Commission recommended that the reviewed Standards include key areas such as food, dementia, governance and clinical care.
The Department of Health and Aged Care (the Department) is in the process of finalising its review and advising Government of the outcome including delivering a set of strengthened Quality Standards. Further information on the consultation program that is informing the review of the Standards is available on the Department’s website.
The Commission is contributing to the revision of the Quality Standards in our role as the national regulator of aged care services.
To make sure that we are ready for the strengthened Standards, we are implementing the Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care Program. This program includes developing a revised audit methodology, processes and systems to enhance our capability, effectiveness and accountability under our internal regulatory processes. We will also need to provide clear and accessible pathways for providers and older Australians to speak to us.
We believe the program will position the Commission to support providers to deliver care and services which:
- Is person centred and provided with kindness and compassion, dignity and respect.
- Provides the right level of care to meet the individual needs, goals, and preferences of older people, including nutrition and dining experiences
- Keeps older people safe from preventable harm
- Helps to keep older people engaged with meaningful activities and opportunities to connect with others
- Supports coordinated care across the aged care and disability sectors.
Our program will be guided by the implementation of the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards (the Standards), expected to be introduced from 1 July 2024. We will also rely on contributions from older Australians, service providers and all our stakeholders.
Until the strengthened Standards are finalised, we will continue to use the existing Standards.
Our vision and end state
Our vision is to be a world-class regulator, strengthening our capability, effectiveness and accountability. We are committed to the goals of protecting and enhancing the safety, health, wellbeing and quality of life of every aged care consumer.
The strengthened Standards are designed to deliver a better aged care experience. The Strengthened Standards, Better Aged Care program will provide valued and effective support to the sector to prepare for the implementation of the strengthened Standards. The program will also help to position the Commission as a contemporary, connected, accessible regulator supporting continuous improvement, excellence and trust in the provision of aged care to older Australians.
Our end state goals relate to three groups – the Commission, providers and consumers. You can read our vision and end state here.
When we are changing
Although the strengthened Standards will not be introduced until 1 July 2024, we are making changes now.
We know that there is a lot of work to do to ensure our staff, providers and older Australians are prepared and ready for the strengthened Standards.
We also know that change does not happen quickly. We are investing time and resources to make sure that we have the right processes and systems in place in order to support consumers or aged care, as well as aged care providers.
What will change
As part of the Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care program, we will:
- change the way we assess the quality of aged care
- focus on building the awareness and capacity of the aged care sector
- make our requirements, processes and resources easier to understand, transparent and consistent
- continuously improve the way we interact with older Australians, families and carers, by adopting a strong consumer focus and service delivery mindset.
How we will get there
We will reach our end state by implementing new processes and continuing to test our assumptions.
We are conducting a pilot of the draft strengthened Standards to test how they will apply in practice.
This will help us identify the supports and resources needed by our staff, aged care providers and older Australians receiving care as we transition to the final standards by 1 July 2024.
We are also working to improve our service delivery. As part of our Customer Experience Project, we are mapping how we can better help the aged care sector when they:
- engage with us
- make or respond to a complaint
- make a serious incident response scheme notification
- use our education and information resources
- undergo quality assessment and monitoring, including site and quality audits
- go through a compliance process.
The Strengthened Quality Standards Pilot project
The Commission has engaged Ernst and Young Partnership Australia (EY Australia) to assist in delivery of the pilot process, with pilot audits undertaken from May 2023. A Provider Briefing Pack provides information on the process and timing of the pilot audits.
To support providers in understanding the changes, we compared the current Quality Standards with the draft Strengthened Standards. To learn more, read the Strengthened Quality Standards Framework Analysis current as at 20 June 2023.
The pilot audits are still ongoing. Consultation on the draft guidance materials will start soon and we will provide updates on this page once available.
Strengthened Quality Standards Pilot - frequently asked questions
What are the purpose of the pilot audits?
The pilot audits will inform:
- how we will adjust the way we assess provider performance under the strengthened Standards
- how the introduction of graded assessment outcomes can drive performance
- the support providers will need to understand and meet the strengthened Standards
- how to best support older Australians to understand the strengthened Standards
- what they mean for the delivery of safe and quality aged care
- feedback to the Department regarding application of the strengthened Standards.
How are providers selected to participate?
Providers have been carefully selected for the pilot to ensure they are representative of the broader sector (i.e. represent sufficient diversity in service type, location, size, persons receiving care). Participation in the pilot is voluntary, and providers can choose to withdraw their participation at any time.
Who will conduct the pilot audit?
The pilot audits will be conducted by auditors from EY and a regulatory official from the Commission.
How long will the site visit take?
The duration of the site visit will depend on the provider’s service type (including total number of services for diversity of aged care settings), size and location. It is expected that most audits will take between 3 and 4 days (including both virtual and on-site evidence gathering). However, this does not include any time taken by auditors to review documentation prior to the on-site evidence gathering (where applicable). Depending on the type of services being provided and the size of the provider, some pilot audits may not require on-site evidence gathering at all.
Is there any information providers can give to consumers and their family/representatives?
The EY auditor will provide a leaflet to be distributed to consumers which provides information about the strengthened Standards and their potential involvement in the pilot. There is also a fact sheet available.
What is the output of the audit?
All providers participating in pilot audits will be provided an audit report that details the observations and graded ratings (i.e. conforming, major non-conformity or minor non-conformity) against each outcome of each strengthened Standard.
How will the information from the audit be used?
All information gathered for the purpose of the pilot audit will only be used to inform the audit findings and outcomes and to improve the audit methodology, guidance, resources and tools.
What is graded assessment?
Graded assessment of the strengthened Standards is designed to provide greater transparency to consumers and the sector regarding provider performance, as well as incentivise excellence and promote continuous improvement. The Pilot audits will include assessments against three gradings:
- Minor non-conformance
- Major non-conformance
There is also work underway to consider how the fourth grade, Elements of best practice conformance, may be applied in practice. It is anticipated the Pilot audits will capture examples of best practice, to inform how these examples may be shared. There may be options to do so outside the audit process.
What happens if issues are identified during a pilot audit?
A regulatory official from the Commission will participate in the pilot audit and if in the course of the pilot, issues with respect to your compliance under existing standards and obligations come to light, these will be referred to the ACQSC for follow up and potential regulatory action under the Commission Act and Rules.
Have your say
We value your questions, suggestions and feedback, and look forward to working with you together, as we strive to continuously improve on the services available to our older Australians.
In the meantime, please submit any comments or queries you may have, to email@example.com.
- Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care Vision
- Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care Program – Provider fact sheet
- Stronger Standards, Better Aged Care Program – older Australians fact sheet
- Strengthened Quality Standards National Conference slide deck
- Strengthened Quality Standards Provider Briefing Pack
- Strengthened Quality Standards Framework Analysis (current as at 20 June 2023)