Mixed response over Aged Care Act delay

Consumer groups repeat calls for a 2024 start to new Act, while providers welcome the chance for more consultation.

Consumer advocacy groups have strongly reiterated calls for the federal government to deliver the new Aged Care Act sooner rather than later after it announced Wednesday that it intends to “update the commencement date of the legislation,” which was due to take effect on 1 July.

Recommended by the aged royal commission in its final report in 2021, the reforms could now be delayed by more than a year, with July 2025 predicted as the new implementation date.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Aged Care told Australian Ageing Agenda: “The department is working with legislative drafters to finalise the bill as soon as possible … Introduction and commencement timeframes relating to the bill for the new Aged Care Act are decisions for government.”

Anika Wells

In a statement, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said the government is continuing its review of stakeholders’ input on the exposure draft, which was released for consultation mid-December. “The government is now considering the extensive and valuable feedback to refine and finalise the draft legislation before it is introduced to parliament,” she said.

Patricia Sparrow

While acknowledging that “proper scrutiny by parliament is important,” Patricia Sparrow – chief executive officer of seniors advocacy group COTA Australia – told AAA: “Older people should not have to wait another 15 months before these new rights protect them in aged care. With proper planning, we can make sure this bill is introduced, scrutinised by parliament and passed this year with commencement shortly, including appropriate transition arrangements.”

Ms Sparrow said older Australians had already waited “three long years … further delays could push the commencement of this crucial legislation to as late as July 2025.”

2024 has to be the year we get a rights-based Aged Care Act

Craig Gear
Craig Gear

Following his call last week for the government to hit the 1 July deadline, Craig Gear – chief executive officer of the Older Persons Advocacy  Network – told AAA: “2024 has to be the year we get a rights-based Aged Care Act. Older people need their rights enshrined in legislation.”

However, provider peak body the Aged & Community Care Providers Association views the delay as an opportunity to provide continued input into the creation of the new Act.

“We of course want to see the legislation passed and implemented as soon as practical,” said ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson. “But this allows more time to engage meaningfully with older people, the community, the sector and other stakeholders. It is far more important that the legislation and associated requirements be passed when it is ready, than passed to meet the 1 July date.”

Tom Symondson

ACCPA is calling for at least six to 12 months transition from the time at which all information is available – including the finalised Act, rules, guidance and education materials. “A staged approach to implementation of these new reforms should also be adopted so providers can effectively manage change within their organisations, their workforce and engage with their residents and care recipients,” said Mr Symondson.

The Act, he added, is a chance to usher in a new era to reform Australia’s aged care system. “So, we need to make sure that the legislation – which will likely govern the aged care sector for the next 30 years – is not rushed. We need to get this right.”

Simon Miller

Christian not-for-profit aged care provider Anglicare Sydney also welcomed the chance for further consultation. “Alongside other leading aged care providers, care workers, advocates, older Australians, their families and community members, we have provided extensive feedback to the government,” said CEO Simon Miller. “I’m pleased that the government is taking the additional time required to listen and respond to the extensive sector and community feedback.”

The best news we’ve had on this front for months

Daniel Gannon

Daniel Gannon – executive director of the Retirement Living Council – described the delay of the Act as “the best news we’ve had on this front for months … Genuine consultation on the bill was a challenge from the outset and, while the extended timeframe to provide submissions was welcomed, key sections of the legislation are yet to be drafted.”

Daniel Gannon

The delay in the release of the recommendations of the Aged Care Taskforce also prevented stakeholders from meaningfully understanding future funding proposals for the provision of aged care services, said Mr Gannon, “which has flow-on impacts to the retirement living sector.”

For these reasons, deferring the commencement date for the new Act “is an obvious and welcome development to ensure we get it right,” said Mr Gannon. “Frankly, it’s too important to get wrong.”

Despite the delay, Mr Gear told AAA that OPAN was also pleased the government was continuing to consider stakeholders’ feedback. “While there are some areas where we need to see improvements, we stand prepared to work with the government and aged care providers to find solutions,” he said. But he urged action: “Let’s see the detail and let’s get on with it.”

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Tags: ACCPA, aged care act, anglicare sydney, anika wells, cota australia, craig gear, daniel gannon, Department of Health and Aged Care, opan, patricia sparrow, retirement living council, simon miller, Tom Symondson,

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