The commonwealth government must increase its role in regulating aged care and ensure evidence-based policy underpins all tax-payer funded aged care services, according to a position paper from Australia’s peak national body of professionals working across ageing-related fields.

The Australian Association of Gerontology paper was developed in collaboration with AAG’s Ageing Workforce and Education Special Interest Group and includes 42 statements outlining the peak body’s position on aged care workforce, funding and governance issues.

The paper’s framework reflects the consultation papers and calls for submissions from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The AAG believes the government has a responsibility to act as a system steward and ensure taxpayer-funded aged care services are underpinned by evidence-based policy, said Dr Sandra South who led the development of the position paper.

Dr Sandra South

“The government can set the tone for aged care and it can make sure that there is a human rights, rather than a market based foundation underpinning all aged care policy and development,” Dr South told Australian Ageing Agenda.

She said the government can do a lot through the language it uses and by the way it develops policies.

“Perhaps [the government] needs to take a leadership role and needs to step in and set aspirational targets that aged care providers have to meet within certain time frames,” Dr South said.

She said AAG members want the government to increase its role in regulating aged care.

“AAG members clearly want their government to take a leadership and a governance role and to ensure the safety and quality of services, and to ensure equity of access and outcomes,” Dr South said.

More investment needed

On funding aged care, the position paper outlines a need for investment into the current and future aged care requirements.

Dr South said different funding options in addition to general revenue need to be explored to ensure the government can adequately play the role of system steward, and for aged care services to provide high-quality care.

“AAG recognises that people are willing to pay for aged care as long as that extra money they’re paying … will be used towards their future aged care needs and other people’s future aged care needs,” she said.

Improving access

On accessing the aged care system, AAG holds the view that My Aged Care is a triaging system that determines if people are referred to an Aged Care Assessment Team or Regional Assessment Service, Dr South said.

“It should instead focus on eligibility and funding level determination only,” the AAG said.

Dr South said there also needs to be clinical involvement from when someone enters the aged care system.

“We’re talking allied health and nursing practitioners at all levels of the assessment services, and to have those services integrated. So you might still have your assessment workforce, and they don’t have a clinical background but they would be working within organisations that have clear clinical management,” she said.

Statements aim to set foundations

Dr South said the position paper, which contains a broad range of fundamental statements, is not meant to be read as a single document.

“It’s a series of standalone statements that set the foundation of a range of issues,” she said.

The AAG hopes the paper will set up the foundation for other bodies to explore the issues on the aged care workforce, funding, and governance, Dr South said.

“We hope that it is going to provide a basis for other… health and allied health professional bodies, to then go away and do more detailed positions on their own area and their own contribution to wholistic and multidisciplinary care,” she said.

“We also hope that for ourselves it’s going to clarify our position both to the media and other organisations but also to assist us in our own future work,” Dr South said.

Access the AAG Position Paper: Aged Care Workforce, Funding and Governance here.

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