New Act could come as soon as next week

When introduced, the provider peak body is predicting the section on criminal penalties to look different than in the draft, conference hears.

The new Aged Care Act could be introduced in the first week of July or else in August and passed through parliament by the end of the year, an industry conference has heard.

When introduced, the provider peak body is expecting the section on criminal penalties to look different than it did in the exposure draft.

Over 500 people attended the Hilton Hotel in Sydney last week for Aged & Community Care Providers Association’s state conference for providers in New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

On Wednesday, stakeholders discussed the new Aged Care Act, which the federal budget announced would come into effect from 1 July 2025 – a year later than previously planned.

Panellist Roald Versteeg – general manager of policy and advocacy at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association – said they believed the Act would “be introduced sooner rather than later”.

Roald Versteeg

“We think it’s quite possible that we’ll see it introduced in the first week of July, and if not, then probably August,” Mr Versteeg told delegates.

He said it was important to note 1 July 2025 was the nominal date for commencement but not guaranteed.

“It’s also important to note that as soon as the Act is introduced to parliament, it will almost certainly go for a Senate inquiry lasting 3-6 months. And there will be an opportunity for the sector to engage as part of that process.”

It means “we will possibly see the Act passed this year” but if things go wrong in the Senate inquiry, for example, it could be later, said Mr Versteeg. There’s also some uncertainty remaining for the introduction of the strengthened standards – which will apply in July 2025 or when the Act is passed – and the Support at Home program, he added.

“The Act might be introduced into parliament, but it may not be introduced with all the regulations, so we may not have all the detail.”

Expected changes in final bill

On how the new Act will differ from the draft, Mr Versteeg said he was keen to see how the Department of Health and Aged Care managed the competing views of stakeholders.

On criminal penalties, for example, the sector was against what was included in the Act, but some of the consumer groups thought they weren’t strong enough, he said.

“I believe we will see some movement on criminal penalties, which will be good,” Mr Versteeg said. “It may not be exactly what we want still, but there’s still opportunity to engage further as part of the Senate enquiry. So that would be our priority there.

“We’d also like to see some greater clarity on the role of the department and the [Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission] and ensuring that they are held to account in terms of timelines and communication and engagement with the sector.

“I’d also like to see some changes to the supporters and representatives … hopefully, all of us are supportive of that approach, but they need to do the homework with the states first to make sure that the legislation aligns.”

He also raised the issue of rights and competing rights and high-quality care.

“So what happens when the rights of one resident impacts on the rights of another? How is that dealt with in the Act?” he said. “We [also] need a definition that’s going to work for high-quality care, and that ensures that the services expected under that definition, are appropriately funded.”

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Tags: ACCPA, ACCPA conference, aged care reform, new aged care act, Roald Versteeg,

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