Provider reporting requirements to receive the $10 boost to the residential aged care subsidy are a welcome start but self-reporting raises concerns over the accuracy of information, an accredited practising dietitian tells Australian Ageing Agenda.
The 2021 Basic Daily Fee Supplement is a $3 billion initiative within the Federal Government’s $17.7 billion aged care budget package to boost the subsidy for daily living services, as recommended in the aged care royal commission’s final report.
Almost all residential aged care providers have applied for the supplement (99 per cent) and the government has paid out over $53.7 million for the initiative in its first month, Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt and Minister for Aged Care Services Richard Colbeck announced last week.
To receive the $10-per-resident-per-day supplement providers must report quarterly on My Aged Care on their food and nutrition expenditure, and on the quality of daily living services provided to residents.
The first report, which is due on 21 October, asks providers to report on nine items, however only the following four are currently mandatory:
- expenditure on food and ingredients used to prepare meals and snacks on-site
- expenditure on pre-prepared and bought meals, such as from restaurants or contracted services
- the standard of daily living services
- plans to review or improve daily living services.
Dietitians Australia’s subject matter lead for aged care Julie Dundon welcomed the focus on food and nutrition reporting.
“I’m very supportive of the $10 basic daily fee funding and to support aged care homes to work on providing nutritionally adequate food, but also to put that towards the mealtime experience as well to make the whole food meal experience enjoyable,” Ms Dundon told AAA.
“It’s a great start and many providers are just learning how to report on these topics and these subjects, so we need to be mindful that this is something new,” said Ms Dundon, an accredited practising dietitian.
However, she is concerned with the accuracy of self-reported information.
“That’s how it needs to be in these early days, but there needs to be a process where we feel sure and confident that those figures are correct. And it’s not because anyone’s trying to mislead anybody, it’s just that they don’t know how to do it,” she said.
“For instance, if you’re trying to measure how much protein is being served and each resident is receiving each day, that’s quite different to the amount of protein foods that are purchased,” Ms Dundon said.
There is also no way of validating the information, said Ms Dundon who hopes that will come later.
She said an accredited practising dietitian could support the accuracy of self-reporting.
Discretionary reporting fields
According to the explanatory notes, providers should also report on the discretionary items with information they currently capture in information systems or can capture easily.
The health department plans to refine the discretionary fields following consultation with stakeholders. The five items are:
- expenditure on oral nutritional supplements
- expenditure on oral health expenses
- hours for cooks and chefs
- hours for other food management or food service staff
- expenditure on allied health support to improve residents’ nutritional wellbeing, such as dietitians, speech pathologists and oral health practitioners.
“It would be good to think that some of those discretionary reporting items will become mandatory in the future and that would be probably quite expected as well,” Ms Dundon said.
Mr Hunt congratulated providers for the almost universal take up of the supplement.
“Such a strong take up must be commended and we now expect that all aged care providers will use these funds to deliver improved care, including food and nutrition, to senior Australians,” Mr Hunt said in a statement.
Aged care providers received their first payment in early August. Providers who do not submit their report by 21 October will have their supplement suspended until the report is submitted.
The Department of Health has engaged aged care benchmarking firm StewartBrown to help providers meet their reporting obligations. Find out more.