In response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the Australian Government committed to a wide-ranging and ambitious series of reforms in aged care over the next 5 years.
There are 2 areas of reform that are currently the subject of public consultation. One relates to the alignment of regulation of Commonwealth-funded care and supports – aged care, disability support and veterans’ care – to improve protections, and ensure consistent quality and safety for consumers and participants. The other is a proposal to establish a common code of conduct for the care and support sector. This aims to ensure that older people, people with a disability, and entitled veterans and war widows who receive Commonwealth-subsidised care, supports and services can have confidence in the workforce delivering that assistance.
The public consultation on these 2 reforms is being led by the Department of Health, and more information about them is included in this edition of the Quality Bulletin. I encourage all providers to read the consultation papers and take the time to provide feedback and have your say on these important reforms.
Preparing for an emergency event
The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised for everyone in the aged care sector the critical importance of planning and preparing for potential high-impact events to reduce the risk of their occurrence, and to respond quickly and decisively when they do occur.
Recent experiences of bushfires and flooding events across a number of states and territories have further demonstrated the value of advance planning and preparation. This is also highlighted in key findings of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements report.
Emergency events are likely to present high risks for aged care services, particularly residential aged care where consumers have higher care needs, when accompanied by:
- a requirement for the evacuation of services at short notice
- staff shortages as staff are unable to travel to work due to their own personal circumstances
- critical infrastructure issues including power and information communication systems failures
- restricted access to essential supplies.
The Aged Care Quality Standards require approved providers to demonstrate effective risk management systems and practices including the management of high-impact risk associated with the care of consumers (Standard 3 and Standard 8). The Commission monitors approved provider preparation for emergency events through our assessment and monitoring processes.
Preparing and planning for emergency events can significantly lessen the impact on aged care consumers and staff. A range of Department of Health resources are available to provide guidance to approved providers to prepare for, and assist with, service continuity in an emergency event.
You can also read our Commissioner Janet Anderson’s recent letter to residential approved providers about emergency events planning.
Aged care services operating in a COVID-normal world
The high proportion of Australians now fully vaccinated means we are gradually adjusting to a COVID-normal world as restrictions are lifted on most activities outside our homes.
For residential aged care services, this means that – subject to any public health orders in place – families should be able to visit their loved ones in care, and aged care residents should be able to leave their facility and return to it under the same rules that apply to people living in their own homes in the community.
As is now widely acknowledged, the impacts of COVID-19 have extended beyond physical health. Restricted visitor access increases the risk of social isolation for aged care consumers and can lead to a rapid decline in their wellbeing and quality of life, particularly where the restrictions are prolonged.
Providers have a responsibility to facilitate visitors’ safe access to people living in residential aged care to support their residents’ social and emotional health and wellbeing, and this will be especially important over the approaching holiday period.
In a COVID-normal world, infection prevention and control precautions continue to be necessary and important, and any local public health order must be followed diligently. However, where there is no public health order, the policies and practices of a residential aged care service must enable and facilitate residents and their families spending time together safely.
Approved provider application fee now applies
Following our recent public consultation, organisations seeking approved provider status must now pay a fee to have their application assessed by the Commission.
The fee applies to:
- new applicants for approved provider status
- existing approved providers seeking approval to provide additional services or to change the types of services they provide.
Organisations must provide all relevant documentation and evidence requested when submitting their application, otherwise additional fees will be charged.
Organisations can apply to have an application fee waived if they are seeking approval to provide residential, home or flexible aged care and services which meet certain conditions.
The Commission’s Cost Recovery Implementation Statement (CRIS) – Applications for approved aged care provider status 2021–22 outlines the new arrangement of fees, charges and waivers. These cost recovery arrangements will be reviewed in November 2022, prior to the 2022–23 CRIS being released.
Visit our Becoming an approved aged care provider web page for more information on submitting an application and the fee waiver process.
To read a summary of the feedback we received during the public consultation process and frequently asked questions, visit the Approved provider application fee web page.
Have your say on current Department of Health public consultations
Aligning regulation across the care and support sector
Australia’s care and support sector and the broader community are invited to have their say on the Australian Government’s proposals to align regulation across aged care, National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) funded disability support and veterans’ care services. The Government announced its commitment to regulatory alignment as part of the 2021–22 Budget.
Aligning regulation for these services aims to strengthen protections for consumers and participants, ensuring the quality and safety of their care. It will also seek to make it easier for service providers and workers to deliver care and support to consumers and participants of the different services.
The Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Services and Department of Veterans’ Affairs are leading this regulatory alignment reform program, with the support of a cross-agency taskforce led by the DOH.
A consultation paper has been released to inform the next steps in this project. Providers, consumers, families, carers, workers and the broader community are now invited to have their say.
You can provide your views through written submissions, via online workshops, focus groups and surveys. Written submissions close on Friday 17 December.
To get started, visit the DOH Consultation Hub – Aligning Regulation across Care and Support Sector – Consultation Stage 2. For more information, visit the DOH website or email RegulatoryAlignmentTaskforce@health.gov.au.
Care and support sector code of conduct
DOH is also consulting with stakeholders on the development of an enforceable care and support sector code of conduct applicable to providers and workers across aged care, veterans’ care and disability support services.
Following preliminary engagement with key representatives in the care and support sector, a draft code has been prepared based on the existing NDIS Code of Conduct.
DOH has released a consultation paper outlining the purpose of the draft code and how it is intended to work. The paper seeks views from a range of stakeholders across the care and support sector on areas where the draft code may need to be further adapted or adjusted to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Stakeholders are invited to submit their feedback on the consultation paper by completing the online questionnaire by Friday 10 December.
Further information is available on the DOH Consultation Hub – Care and Support Sector Code of Conduct Consultation. If you have any questions, contact the DOH Worker Regulation Section on 02 6289 5981 or WorkerRegulationSe@Health.gov.au.