The structure of aged care’s new quality and safety commission announced by the government rejects the recommendation for three separate commissioners for complaints, care and consumer advocacy as proposed by the Carnell and Paterson review.
As Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced on 18 April, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will bring together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health under a single quality and safety commissioner (read our backgrounder here).
A spokesperson for the minister confirmed to Australian Ageing Agenda there will not be an independent statutory officer in the role of complaints commissioner under the new regulator.
The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner will be responsible for complaints handling but will delegate these functions and powers to senior staff at the commission, the spokesperson said.
The CEO position of the quality agency will also be absorbed into the new commission.
The new model differs from the Carnell-Paterson Review, which recommended a quality and safety commission headed by an aged care commissioner supported by a board and a care quality commissioner and complaints commissioner with statutory roles plus a consumer commissioner and a chief clinical advisor.
The independent regulatory agency proposed by 2011 Productivity Commission inquiry also recommended separate commissioners for care quality and complaints and reviews.
The government’s model includes an advisory group and a chief clinical advisor but no additional commissioners.
“The single commissioner will enable unified, responsive regulation, compliance and complaints handling. Having a single commissioner will also mitigate the risk of creating silos and will ensure a consolidated response to people’s needs and concerns,” Mr Wyatt told AAA.
Rather than the consumer commissioner proposed by Carnell and Paterson and advocated for by consumer peak COTA Australia, the quality and safety commissioner will also have responsibility to ensure that people in aged care are heard, a spokesperson for Minister Wyatt said.
“The commissioner will ensure that senior Australians have a single point of contact when they need help with a complaint, a concern or when something goes wrong and will bring improved transparency of the performance of residential aged care providers,” he said.
At the press conference announcing the quality reform measures, Minister Wyatt said the training needs of the staff moving across to the new commission would be looked at.
“I’ve found there is variation across not only the agency but also variation in respect to staff on the ground. And I want to have a consistent approach to the quality and standards that we expect of anybody working in this area to make sure that they are there protecting senior Australians,” he said.
The new single independent commission will begin on 1 January 2019 when the functions and staff of the quality agency and complaints commissioner will move to the new commission.
The commission will take on the regulatory functions of the Department of Health a year later on 1 January 2020.
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