Aged Care

Aged care act reforms potentially delayed, gov’t vows to “get it right”

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Reports suggest a delay in the implementation of the highly anticipated new Aged Care Act, a pivotal piece of legislation aimed at transforming the aged care sector.

While the initial commencement date was set for 1 July 2024, the government has acknowledged the need for further consultation and refinement to ensure the legislation meets the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.

Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells emphasised the importance of getting the new Act right, stating, “We heard strong feedback that the proposed new Aged Care Act is a once in a generation opportunity for systemic reform that we must get right.”

The decision to postpone the commencement date has been welcomed by various stakeholders, including aged care providers, advocacy groups and industry bodies. They recognise the complexities involved and the need for comprehensive consultation to ensure the legislation is clearly articulated and achievable.

Retirement Living Council Executive Director Daniel Gannon applauded the move, stating, “This is the best news we’ve had on this front for months. Genuine consultation on the Bill was a challenge from the outset and while the extended timeframe to provide submissions was welcomed, key sections of the legislation are yet to be drafted.”

The Aged Care Act reforms were a key recommendation of the Aged Care Royal Commission, aimed at enshrining the rights of older Australians and ensuring they receive high-quality, person-centred care. However, concerns were raised about the initial timeframe, with some advocacy groups describing the potential delay until July 2025 as “unacceptable.”

COTA Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow emphasised the urgency of the reforms, stating, “Older Australians want to get aged care set up right, now and into the future, but it doesn’t mean we need to move at a glacial pace.”

The decision to delay the commencement date allows for continued input from stakeholders, including older Australians, their families and carers, workers, advocates and aged care providers. The government has committed to considering the extensive feedback received and refining the draft legislation before introducing it to Parliament.

Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) CEO Tom Symondson welcomed the opportunity for meaningful engagement, saying, “We need to make sure that the legislation, which will likely govern the aged care sector for the next 30 years, is not rushed. We need to get this right.”

Minister Wells acknowledged the importance of the new Aged Care Act, stating, “The new Act is an incredibly important milestone on the Albanese Government’s mission to lift the standard of aged care in Australia and deliver a high quality, person-centred service.”

While the commencement date will be updated following the refinement process, stakeholders are calling for a reasonable transition period of at least 6 to 12 months after the finalised Act, rules, guidance and education materials are made available. A staged approach to implementation is also being advocated to allow aged care providers to effectively manage change within their organisations, workforce and engagement with residents and care recipients.

The Albanese Government has already implemented several aged care election commitments, including 24/7 nursing, a record $11.3 billion pay rise for aged care workers and increased transparency through the ‘Dollars to Care’ initiative. Additionally, the government has addressed 69 recommendations from the Aged Care Royal Commission, with tangible impacts already evident, such as increased care minutes, reduced pressure injuries and improved Star Ratings data.

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