Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills and Estates Associate and Accredited Aged Care Specialist, Larisa Kapur, discusses the latest news and developments that are impacting the aged care sector.
Among the numerous reform initiatives that are being steadily rolled out across the aged care sector, the past few months have seen announcements on wage increases, a reprieve for some aged care facilities who are struggling to meet the stringent 24/7 registered nurse requirements, and big changes related to how residents are informed of their food choices and nutrition rights and needs.
Wage increases for home care packages
The Department of Health and Aged Care has published two fact sheets on looming wage increases and how they will be rolled out to home care package programs.
From 30 June 2023, personal care workers, lifestyle activities officers, nurses and home care workers will receive a 15 per cent pay rise. It is the largest wage increase the sector has ever experienced, and the government has set aside $2.2 billion to increase the home care subsidy.
As a result, everyone’s home care packages will rise by 11.9 percent.
The first fact sheet is targeted at recipients of a home care package (HCP). It explains what recipients should expect from their conversations with providers about the increase to HCP pricing. It also sets out their rights if they are not happy or think any of the plans are unreasonable.
The second is targeted at providers. It explains who will receive the increase, how it will be implemented, and what providers need to do.
More specifically, the fact sheet includes:
- how care recipients should be told of the changes, including an explanation of a “reasonable and justifiable price increase”,
- information on compliance requirements, and
- a Q&A covering:
- how the wage increases should be passed on,
- the outcome of the Annual Wage Review,
- how to update prices on MyAged Care,
- what it means for workers who work across multiple programs (e.g. NDIS, DVA, HCP), and
- mandatory timeframes for implementation.
Temporary threshold for registered nurse care minutes/responsibilities
On 30 May 2023 the government updated its guidance on the requirement for a registered nurse to be onsite 24/7, announcing that it would put a temporary threshold in place to cater for those facilities that need more time to comply.
From 1 July 2023, a temporary threshold will be introduced of an average 20 hours of registered nurse coverage per day over a calendar month. This is designed to help providers build up their staffing levels while they transition to the new 24/7 registered nurse responsibility.
Facilities will be eligible for a supplement if they meet the temporary coverage threshold, have no more than an average 60 residents per day (based on occupied beds) over a calendar month and correctly report registered nurse coverage by the seventh day of the following month.
Keep in mind, however, that payment of the supplement does not indicate compliance.
The availability of the lower threshold will be reviewed in late-2023 and on an ongoing basis, according to the latest update.
Upcoming changes to improve the quality of food and dining in aged care
Anika Wells MP, minister for aged care, has announced the establishment of a new food support unit and hotline that will handle food complaints. The move is part of the government’s delivery on promises to improve the quality of food for older people. The unit, which will sit within the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, will receive $12.9 million funding from the $36 billion aged care budget.
The quality of food and the dining experience in aged care homes is a common topic for residents and their loved ones, and access to nutritional and suitable food is a fundamental human right, due to the significant impact it has on a person’s quality of life.
The 2021 Royal Commission identified food and nutrition for urgent review, and the government is introducing measures for improvement. Measures to increase transparency and accountability for the food provided in homes are also in focus.
Some of the measures include:
- A specific food standard as part of the revised Aged Care Quality Standards
- Strengthened mandatory reporting requirements on food
- Resident experience surveys and quality indicators that will be published on Star Ratings
- Partnering with the Maggie Beer Foundation to provide training and education for the aged care workforce
- Monitoring food and nutrition, including through a new, dedicated Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit
- Commissioning independent dietitians to carry out 500 assessments aimed at increasing the knowledge and capability of providers to develop nutritionally balanced menus
The government has also put together useful fact sheets for aged care residents that set out the minimum standards that apply to their food and their dining experience. You can find them here and here.
Important dates and information on aged care reform
The Department of Health and Aged Care updated its indicative timeline for Aged Care Reform on 6 June 2023.
The roadmap sets out all aged care reform activity, dating back to October 2022 and looking forward up to July 2025. While dates are subject to change, the roadmap is updated regularly.
According to the timetable, the new Complaints Commissioner in the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission was due to start in May 2023. And in June 2023, the Elder Care Support Program started, as well as the recruitment of a skilled workforce to provide face-to-face support and help First Nations elders navigate and access aged care services.
Looking forward to the next few months, the following important milestones are planned:
- Funding commences for the 15 per cent award wage increase for many aged care workers
- The office of the Interim First Nations Aged Care Commissioner will be staffed and resourced to consult with First Nations people, providers and communities about the design of a permanent First Nations Aged Care Commissioner
- The Office of the Inspector General of Aged Care will be established
- The appointment of the acting Inspector-General will commence
- The requirement for a registered nurse on site 24/7 in approved residential aged care services will commence on 1 July
- The Community Visitors Scheme will expand from 1 July and be renamed the Aged Care Volunteer Visitors Scheme (ACVVS)
- The financial monitoring responsibility will transfer from the Health Department to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, as part of the Commission’s expanded role as the prudential regulator
- The new Food and Nutrition Advisory Unit will be established, staffed by specialists within the Commission and dietitian experts
- Integrated Care and Commissioning trials will be progressively rolled out across ten sites around Australia, focused on opportunities to support providers and communities, including the delivery of services across care and support sectors with a big focus on aged care and disability
- The new Food Complaints and Advice Hotline will be established
- The mandatory care minutes will increase to 200 minutes, including 40 minutes for a Registers Nurse
- Enrolled Nurse Care Minutes in aged care will be published with Star Ratings on the MyAgedCare ‘Find a provider’ staffing pages
- Aged care providers will be required to submit annual information about their operations by 31 October 2023
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping people at every stage of life
Our experienced aged care lawyers are passionate about the aged care sector and continue to monitor the changes rolling out impacting both aged care providers and residents and care recipients.
We are dedicated to helping people navigate the complex aged care industry and the various care options available. There are several financial and legal factors that need to be considered when an individual transitions to aged care, including reviewing service agreements and the individual’s estate plan.
If anyone needs legal advice about transitioning to aged care, we are here to help. Please contact our Aged Care and Wills and Estates Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on direct line 07 5506 8241, email email@example.com or free call 1800 621 071.