Draft Act ‘half-cooked’, delegates hear

The 1 July postponement allows providers time to prepare for changes, say ACCPA conference panellists.

The pushing back of the 1 July deadline of the new Aged Care Act was largely welcomed by a panel of experts speaking at an industry event on the Gold Coast on Monday.

Roald Versteeg

The postponement allows for a longer transition time, said Roald Versteeg – general manager, policy and advocacy for the Aged & Community Care Providers Association – at the peak body’s third state conference of the year.  

“That really is a top priority for ACCPA. We know that the sector can step up to meet the requirements of the new Act. But the sector does need all of the information to prepare for whatever changes might come with the new Act – and then time to actually prepare for that.”

Julie McStay – partner at law firm Thomas Geer – said the sector “took a collective sigh” when it was announced in early April that the 1 July deadline had been abandoned. The reason for the relief was because “there are some really significant gaps in the legislation.”

Julie McStay

There were legislative gaps on two major fronts, Ms McStay told the 400-or-so delegates seated in a Broadbeach venue. Firstly, fees and payments. “That’s a very significant piece of work that still  needs to be done.”

Also missing from the legislation – rules. “The operative stuff – we don’t have any of that yet.” She added: “It would have been disastrous if we had proceeded down the path to pass the legislation that was half-cooked.”

Athena Ermides

While Ms McStay told delegates she “wholeheartedly” supports industry regulation, she said it was important not to rush into it. “We want to make sure that it is a considered piece of legislation that is going to work for consumers and the industry at large.”

Athena Ermides – chief executive officer of independent living, residential care, and community care provider Good Shepherd Lodge – agreed the delay is good news for providers. It ensures that “every single layer within our organisation has a really clear idea of what the legislation is, what the Act is about and what that means for us as providers and our residents,” she said.

You need to start getting your ducks in a row

Athena Ermides
Melissa Argent

Melissa Argent – CEO of Rockpool Residential Aged Care – said the postponement was an opportunity for the sector to reframe the narrative. “And then we can all restart from the same baseline.”

Ms Argent told delegates her team was starting to prepare now for the likely changes to come. “It’s about filtering the information down in a meaningful way so that it’s not causing panic.”

“But we need to start yesterday,” added Ms Ermides. “So as soon as you get home from this conference you need to start getting your ducks in a row.”

While acknowledging that “it’s important that we get [the Act] right,” Geoff Rowe – CEO of Older Persons Advocacy Network member Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia – told delegates that older people are growing frustrated at the continuing delays. “People are starting to say, ‘We’ve waited a really long time.’ A lot of consumers are saying, ‘We want it and we want it now.’”

Reflecting on the positive aspects of the draft legislation, Mr Versteeg singled out its rights-based structure. “It’s a fundamental change from the Act that we have,” he said.

Geoff Rowe

People moving into aged care, said Mr Rowe, were all too often required to check out their rights at the door. “They are no longer allowed in some facilities to make decisions.”

A rights-based Act “is about  including people in the decision making,” he added. “The challenge for the aged care sector is to move from being in the business of aged care to move into being in the business of people in aged care.”

Referencing the proposed penalties for providers who fail to deliver high-quality care, Ms McStay told delegates: “You have to ask are the consequences posed in the draft warranted? I’d have to say no.” The penalties proposed were, she said, “disproportionate and unnecessary.”

There has to be accountability – “we’ve got to set the tone right,” said Ms McStay, but “we don’t need to have criminal penalties attached to either providers or responsible persons.”

When the panel was asked for closing comments, Mr Rowe reminded providers that they still have an opportunity to provide input on the draft Act. “If what comes out you’re not happy with, you need to raise that concern.”

Ms McStay repeated her plea for the government not to rush the legislation through. “Let’s think about what the implications are and how all the legislation is going to work together so that we get a result that is long-lasting and gives us success in the industry and for consumers as well.”

Comment on the story below. Follow Australian Ageing Agenda on LinkedInX (Twitter) and Facebook, sign up to our twice-weekly newsletter and subscribe to our premium content or AAA magazine for the complete aged care picture.  

Tags: ACCPA, ACCPA conference, Athena Ermides, Geoff Rowe, Julie McStay, Melissia Argent, new aged care act, queensland, Roald Versteeg, Tom Symondon,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *