Aged Care sector policy and program updates in 2022
Over five years, Australia implemented several policies critical to the operations and management of the aged care sector.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the Government partnered with the Royal Commission because it recognised change was needed.
“We responded to the recommendations and are now implementing this once-in-a-generation reform that puts senior Australians first,” Minister Hunt said.
“Our financial commitment is now more than $18.3 billion to fund this agenda for change across home care, residential care, quality and safety, workforce and governance.”
The Government’s comprehensive response to all 148 recommendations outlines a five-year plan to reinforce the quality of care for senior Australians.
Minister Hunt said the establishment of the National Aged Care Advisory Group and the Council of Elders was another important step to ensure tangible outcomes and support for the implementation of the reforms.
“The continued implementation of the reforms is now guided by these two important groups of representatives to ensure each measure that is introduced continues to meet the needs and expectations of senior Australians, families, carers and the wider community,” Minister Hunt said.
- The Aged Care Registered Nurses Payment – To encourage registered nurses to stay inside vehicles, Australia introduced the Aged Care Registered Nurses’ Payment for nurses in rural and remote areas to receive an additional annual payment. This payment states that for either six-months or 12 months of employment, a stipend will be available to registered nurses who work for the same aged care provider over the eligibility periods. Under the 12-month payment, full-time nurses can receive $3,700 and payments for part-time/casual nurses will be determined on a pro-rata basis.
- Aged Care Transition-to-Practice Program – The Government awarded 115 scholarships to increase the knowledge and skills of nurses working in aged care. 33,000 extra training places were created, and 191 registered nurses were encouraged to join.
- Home Care Packages – Minister Colbeck said a key priority in the first year of reform had been to boost home care packages. At the end of 2021, 217,724 senior Australians had access to a home care package, which was a 25% increase since the end of 2020, thanks to the rollout of the first of the 80,000 packages announced in response to the Royal Commission.
Further measures to support the sustainability of the sector currently before Parliament (The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment Royal Commission Response Bill.2) include:
- The introduction of the funding model for aged care, the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) will be introduced from October 1, 2022 and will deliver a funding boost to increase the amount of front-line care to residents. The AN ACC will deliver more than $3.9 billion in increased funding to rural and remote residential aged care services, as well as specialized homeless and remote Indigenous services, to reflect the increased costs of delivering care in these services;
- A registration scheme which will provide a nationally consistent pre-employment screening for aged care workers of approved providers to replace existing police checking obligations; and
- An expansion of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to home and flexible care from July 1, 2022.
Independent Hospital Pricing for Aged Care
The expanded Independent Hospital Pricing Authority has also commenced work on aged care pricing, and will consider the delivery of high-quality care as a central pillar of its work, with recommendations to be made to the Government for the 2023-24 Budget.
More than 4000 people have engaged on reforms such as quality improvements, star ratings and the new support at home program, and more than 18,000 people have participated in webinars.
The next stage of the reforms is underway including the draft legislation of a new Aged Care Act; quality of life indicators; the new support at home program; innovative, dementia-friendly accommodation design; and dementia education and training.