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A new Act to follow as aged care reforms

As the Australian Government looks to establish an aged care system that puts our senior Australians first, the response to this once in a generation reform is founded on the principles of respect, care and dignity. So how will the government adopt this when it comes to writing the future governance and the new Aged Care Act for Australia?

Let’s wind back to 2012 where major changes to the Australian aged care sector were first announced by the government. If you’re thinking it feels like a decade since the legislative review was first initiated, you’re not wrong. Almost 10 years ago the inception of the Living Longer Living Better reforms, followed by the Living Longer Living Better review came about.

At this time, the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act, 2013 was passed and made the most notable change we see today with the introduction of home care. This replaced the former ‘community aged care’ term we were very much accustomed to using, coming into effect in January 2014.

A sector in review

The legislative review that followed took place over approximately 12 months from 2016 to 2017, with the findings cited in the independent Legislated Review of Aged Care 2017 Report

The review introduced a few more new concepts that you may have heard a fair bit from attending the more recent Aged Care Reform webinar series. These included:  

  • moving aged care to a more consumer-driven system
  • means testing for home and residential care
  • accommodation payments in residential care
  • the protection of lump sum accommodation payments – i.e. payment in arrears, unspent funds 
  • access to services
  • equity of access
  • the aged care workforce.

Additionally we saw the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report. The Royal Commission looked at a number areas of the aged care sector, with a particular focus on the quality and safety of residential and in-home aged care for older people. With 148 recommendations to significantly reform the aged care sector, we can see how this time around the government is pushing to get it right and aiming to keep its commitments to deliver major change. Legislative review and the establishment of new legislation will be a key part of this reform to ensure quality and safety in aged care, especially for home care.

Writing a new Act

The legislation that outlines how aged care providers can operate has always been set out in the overarching Aged Care Act, 1997. It generally defines how subsidies can be received by care recipients, in particular how it’s restricted to certain aged care services and the obligations that arise from being an approved aged care provider. Some recent changes the sector has seen are defined in this Act; however, everything that relates to a ‘continuing care recipient’ have now been transitioned over and defined in the Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1997. Subsidies, fees and payments relating to continuing care recipients are dealt within this piece of legislation, which was made effective in February 2021 to support the transitional matters of the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act, 1993… and for a few other purposes too. 

For the funding bodies and the overarching Department of Health, it makes a lot of sense to create transitional legislation to support the aged care reforms. It’s similar to trialing an MVP of software and seeking direct feedback from customers whilst it continues to be refined and enhanced. 

But for many aged care providers and the entire aged care sector, navigating these changes involves cross checking different pieces of legislation to meet care obligations and maintain compliance. Interpreting legislation and being across mandatory changes takes time and requires knowledgeable experts and industry specialists to get this right. 

One of the things the government has done to make things a little easier for the sector, is to keep the rules and regs for residential care and home care subsidies for continuing care recipients all in one place. This appears to mostly be defined in the new legislative tool of the Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act, 1997

And where we get to today… improving schemes and policies around how funding bodies better regulate the growing demands of the aged care sector. Let’s take a look at the arms of the aged care reforms below: 

  • Home care – supporting senior Australians who choose to remain in their own home
  • Residential aged care services and sustainability – improving and simplifying residential aged care services and access
  • Residential aged care quality and safety – improving residential aged care quality and safety
  • Workforce – supporting and growing a better skilled care workforce
  • Governance – new legislation and stronger governance.

We can see how these have come to be and why the pillars have been set as the base of this reform. And like always, we’re once again asked to get involved. Through many workshops, programmes, and a live webinar series, we have been encouraged to engage in consultation through submissions of how best the sector should be reformed. It is promising that this time the government is seeking input directly from the end care recipient – our senior Australians. They have established working groups and are creating partnerships as a way of delivering successful aged care reforms.


To infinity and beyond

As the aged care sector continues to evolve there’s one thing that we can be certain of… we’ll see further legislative change coming through soon. It’s part and parcel of improving anything and everything we do, and how the legislative framework, governance and law-making is created in Australia.What’s important with any change is agility. Being business ready for these reforms is critical as the speed and complexity of the changes increase, especially for the funding programs we know as Home Care Packages (HCP) and the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP).

The HCP program and payment in arrears is due to be rolled out soon. Additionally, as part of the home care reform, a recent national survey was undertaken where home care providers were invited to respond on the introduction of a new ‘Home Program’ that is set to come into effect in July 2023. This new program looks to integrate the 4 existing funding programs to form one single Home Program. The government proposes the new Home Program will be more interactive, with the merger of the existing HCP, CHSP, Short Term Restorative Care Program and Residential Respite funding programs.

Whilst there is much more change to come, we’ll continue advancing Lumary CM and our home care software, and offer the best tech support to home care providers as the aged care sector reforms.