Seniors advocacy organisation COTA Australia has warned aged care providers against fraudulent behaviour when assisting residents with the national marriage-equality survey now underway.
Consumer and provider groups have been attempting to mitigate impacts on aged care services resulting from the optional Marriage Law Postal Survey asking whether the law should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry, which is being run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) rather the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).
Facilities and residents utilise a different procedure for elections, which involves the AEC sending mobile polling booths and staff into facilities and an established procedure for taking names off voting rolls due to age and cognitive frailties.
COTA chief executive Ian Yates said his organisation has been liaising with the ABS and the provider peaks ahead of the survey.
“There is obviously scope for fraudulent behaviour of either not returning forms if the staff disagree with the views, or improperly completing forms,” Mr Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda.
“We want providers to emphasise that it is unlawful to do the wrong thing and there are penalties.”
Provider peaks Aged & Community Services Australia and Leading Age Services Australia said they have also met with the ABS and advised on the challenges facing the operation of the optional postal ballot.
The ABS responded in part by writing to all facilities on 21 August with specific advice on completing the survey for aged care residents including the rules for providing assistance (read AAA coverage here.)
Advice for aged care workers
A Senate inquiry was told on 15 September that the ABS had heard from an aged care provider whose staff were worried they may not wish to complete survey forms according to a resident’s wishes.
The Australian reported that the ABS’s Samantha Palmer said the ABS advised that “if you do not feel you can complete a survey form in alignment with wishes of the person whose form it is, then you should respectfully decline.”
ACSA addressed these issues last week when it contacted members to provide advice on how they should support interested residents to participate in the survey.
“In supporting participation, it is important that individual staff do not express their own view to the resident,” according to the advice.
“Any discussions on the survey are to focus on process and factual information about the process. Discussions need to be respectful and non-biased given the varied views on the matter,” ACSA said.
ACSA also offered advice to providers for residents who were unable to complete their survey form independently and wanted to authorise a trusted person to assist them.
“Wherever possible, staff do not take on the role of a trusted person and that family members or significant others fulfil this role,” ACSA recommended.
The Australian reported that Labor Senator Louise Pratt expressed concern at the Senate Inquiry that religious aged care facilities could use exemptions under the Sex Discrimination Act to refuse to fill out forms on behalf of residents whose views conflicted with the religious beliefs of staff.
The peak body for catholic providers said they were not aware of any issues with their providers to date.
“We have not received any concerns or requests for advice from members, and I am not aware of any freedom of speech concerns being raised,” a spokesperson for Catholic Health Australia told AAA.
AAA contacted the Health Services Union and United Voice, which together represent a range aged care workers. While they had not received any complaints or queries to date both unions said they were watching the rollout of the survey.
All survey forms should be received by Monday 25 September 2017 and the ABS is encouraging completed survey forms to be returned by Friday 27 October 2017.
The ABS will release the results of the survey on Wednesday 15 November 2017.
Information for aged care providers from the ABS is available here.
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