Attwood Marshall Lawyers Wills and Estates Senior Associate and Accredited Aged Care Professional Debbie Sage discusses the latest news and developments impacting the aged care sector.
The aged care sector was hit hard in the first two years of the pandemic, and new figures show that 2022 has been just as detrimental. This year, sadly, over 4,000 COVID-19 related-deaths have occurred in Australian aged-care facilities. This devastating number is three times more than in the first two years of the pandemic.
In addition to the overwhelming stress that the pandemic has put on the sector, aged care has also been impacted by cost-of-living increases, staff shortages and worker burnout.
Increase in the Aged Pension
In response to the rising living costs’ impact on aged care, the Government has implemented the most significant increase to the Age Pension in twelve years. The increase will see an individual pensioner receiving approximately $20 extra per week. Over 4.7 million Australians began to receive the increased amount from 20 September 2022.
With inflation rising to 6.1% in the June quarter and forecast to rise to 7.75% in the December quarter, we must ask: Is the Government doing enough?
Staff shortage crisis
The staff shortage crisis in the aged care sector has been a significant issue for several years. Compared to international best practice standards, Australia currently has a 35,000 worker shortfall each year, according to a recent report compiled by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). In addition, with tens of thousands of workers leaving the sector yearly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to come close to international best practice standards.
CEDA recommends that unions, employers, and the Federal Government collaborate to significantly boost award wages in the aged care sector to tackle the issue. The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety also recommended it will attract and retain more workers in the field.
Significant changes to the Aged Care sector
Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022
The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 was passed by Federal Parliament on 27 October 2022.
The Bill addresses two recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and implements three of the Government’s 2022 election commitments:
- ensuring a registered nurse is on-site and on duty 24/7 in every residential aged care home;
- capping home care administration and management charges as well as banning exit fees; and
- certifying greater transparency for aged care residents, their families and carers regarding how providers spend their funds.
Transition care services to be regulated from 1 December
Legislative amendments are predicted to take effect on 1 December 2022. The changes will transfer the regulatory functions for transition care services to the Commission. This will guarantee that clearer legislative protections are afforded to transition care recipients.
It will also enable the Commission to commence quality reviews of transition care services provided in home care settings and monitor the transition care services provided in home care and residential care settings. Although, the legislative amendments do not introduce accreditation for transition care services, instead, they strengthen the Commission’s ability to monitor these services.
These amendments will impact some providers, and the Commission has standing regulatory relationships with most of these services.
The changes do not cover transition care provided in hospitals or other non-hospital facilities or community services staffed and managed by state or territory governments. Subsequently, the amendments do not cover circumstances where transition care is delivered in home care settings by state or territory government-run services/employees.
Revised Quality Standards – Public consultation underway
The Department of Health and Aged Care is commencing a public consultation process to comprehend the sentiments of older Australians and the aged care sector concerning the draft revised Aged Care Quality Standards.
In answer to a recommendation by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, the department initiated a review of the Quality Standards in March 2021. Since then, revised Quality Standards have reportedly been drafted in consultation with various stakeholders, including the Commission.
The consultation will continue until 25 November 2022, including a series of forums to seek public feedback, along with online focus groups and a survey.
New Act passed in Federal Parliament
On 5 August 2022, the Government passed the Aged Care and other Legalisation (Royal Commission Response) Act 2022 (The Act) to allow for significant improvements in the aged care sector, coinciding with the recommendations made in the Royal Commission’s final report.
The legislation replaces the outdated Aged Care Funding Instrument with a new aged care subsidy funding model (the Australian National Aged Care Classification model), implemented from 1 October 2022.
In addition, the legislation enables the Department of Health and Aged Care to publish star ratings for all residential aged care services provided by the end of this year. Allowing star ratings to be published helps people entering aged care and their families better compare the quality and safety performance of different providers.
There are other measures set to be enforced by the end of 2022. Click here to learn more about the new Act.
The Australian National Aged Care Classification
On 1 October 2022, the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) care funding model replaced the current Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI). Under the AN-ACC aged care funding model, an external, independent assessor assesses each aged care resident.
The assessors will gather information by reading care plans, speaking with staff, and performing clinical assessments, which are non-invasive and designed to understand the time required to provide care to each resident.
Residents can choose not to participate in the assessments, and the assessors can gather information from care plans and staff interviews.
Each AN-ACC classification has corresponding care minute requirements that providers must reach by 1 October 2023.
Introduction of Star Ratings into Aged Care
The Department of Health and Aged Care is introducing a star rating system for all residential aged care facilities designed to provide people with the information they need to make informed choices about residential aged care facilities.
There will be an overall star rating published on the My Aged Care website and a star rating for the following categories:
- Compliance: Which constitutes the facility’s compliance history against the quality standards for residential aged care.
- Consumer Experience: Which consider consumer experience, interviews are conducted annually for each residential aged care facility by an independent consultant engaged by the Department of Health and Aged Care. These interviews commenced earlier in the year.
- Staff Care Minutes: Based on the number of Registered Nurses, Enrolled Nurses, and Personal Assistants’ time worked reported for each residential aged care facility to the Department of Health and Aged Care each quarter.
- Quality Indicators: The indicators reported for each residential aged care facility to the Department of Health and Aged Care each quarter are considered.
- New Governance Requirements: Commencing on 1 December 2022, new governance arrangements will be in place, including establishing consumer advisory bodies to allow residents and their representatives to provide feedback about the quality of aged care services to our board.
Expansion of Serious Incident Response Scheme
The Serious Incident Response Scheme will expand to cover incidents involving home care recipients from 1 December 2022.
The cost of aged care is increasing
The recent increase in the cost of living – a ripple effect of rising interest rates and inflation – has resulted in an upsurge in the cost of aged care, with a higher MPIR and means-tested fees (MTFs).
From 1 October, the MPIR increased to 6.31% per annum, but the maximum daily means-tested fee increased from $264.81 to $358.41 per day. These are both significant increases.
The increase in the MTF resulted from the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) care funding model, which replaced ACFI on 1 October.
Attwood Marshall Lawyers – supporting people through every stage of life
Attwood Marshall Lawyers help people navigate the complex aged care industry and the various care options available. When transitioning to aged care, it is essential to get trusted advice to ensure you plan properly for your future care and that your best interests are the priority. When transitioning to aged care, there are often overlapping issues that must be discussed, including reviewing your estate plan (which includes your Will, Enduring Power of Attorney, and an Advance Health Directive) and other legal and financial factors. Our purpose is to help people plan for the future and preserve their wishes.
We continue to advocate for substantial change to protect the elderly and the aged care sector during tumultuous times.
For aged care advice, service agreements or estate planning advice, contact our Wills and Estates and Aged Care Department Manager, Donna Tolley, on her direct line 07 5506 8241, or email email@example.com
Alternatively, book an appointment online instantly by clicking here.
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