Councils back aged care staffing transparency

Delegates representing Australia’s 537 councils collectively backed the reintroduction and legislation of a minor party Bill calling for transparency on staffing numbers in aged care.

Australia’s councils are collectively calling on the Federal Government to reintroduce and legislate a 2019 transparency bill calling for the publication of staff-to-resident ratios in aged care.

The motion calling for the Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratios Disclosure) Bill 2019 to be re-presented and brought into legislation was unanimously passed at the National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association in Canberra last week.

Delegates at the National General Assembly represented 537 councils across Australia.

The motion, moved by Maribyrnong City Council in Victoria, said people are entering residential aged care later in life with more complex needs.

“Staffing numbers, mix of qualifications and culture are all important in determining quality of care,” the motion said.

The Aged Care Amendment (Staffing Ratios Disclosure) Bill 2019 proposed to mandate that aged care homes publish staff-to-resident quarterly, but it was not passed.

It was introduced by Centre Alliance Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie, who also introduced a similar bill in 2018.

“Local governments are well positioned to engage on this issue, to tap ‘grass roots’ opinion through any number of networks and coordinate a critical mass of views regarding the absence of transparent staff ratio,” the motion said.

“Councils across Australia play an integral role in providing safe aged care services and facilities to its residents,” it said.

Appropriate care models for regional areas

Australian Local Government Association President Linda Scott opens the 2021 national general assembly.

Councils also resolved to call on the government to develop appropriate models of aged care for rural and remote areas and to develop an aged care assessment program with adequate funding for rural and remote communities.

Queensland’s Central Highlands Council said in its motion that it was important for service providers to innovatively develop models of care that work in rural and remote areas, taking into account choice, transport issues and accessibility to specialists.

“The concept of consumer choice is more constrained as you progress into more remote locations,” it said.

Central Highlands’ motion also backed the royal commission’s recommendation for a single independent aged care assessment program and said this must be made available to aged care clients regardless of locality.

The motion said the number of Australians aged over 85 is projected to increase to up to 1.5 million by 2058 and the wait time for the assessment process under the current system is unacceptable.

Right to age at home

Councils also collectively backed the principle of a universal entitlement to aged care that recognises the preference of people to remain in their own homes and in their own regions.

Another Queensland council, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, said the broader failures in aged care identified in the aged care royal commission were being keenly felt in rural and regional areas.

It was important for local governments to advocate on behalf of their communities for equitable access to aged care, and to ensure the commission’s key recommendations are adopted and implemented across the regions they serve, it said.

The motion notes that a system of aged care based on a universal right to high quality, safe and timely support will help older people live an active, self-determined and meaningful life and that equitable access must be achieved through more flexible, integrated service provision.

“Recognition that many people prefer to stay in their homes and communities is a key concern,” the motion states.

All four motions passed without objection and will now go back to ALGA before being formally adopted.

A shorter version of this story first ran on Community Care Review.

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Tags: aged care staff, legislation, national general assembly, staff to resident ratios, transparency,

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