The Productivity Commission has reiterated its concerns about the level of compliance measures imposed on aged care providers.

In the final version of its annual review of the regulatory burden on social and economic infrastructure services, the commission criticised the federal government’s ‘zero risk’ approach to the monitoring of aged care services.

The report said the strengthening of police checks and the new requirements for reporting missing residents had been implemented with little concern for the cost to providers.

It also found fault with the Department of Health and Ageing’s one-size-fits-all approach.

“Such an approach is costly because it not only…penalises the poor performers, but it also imposes costs on the vast majority of providers who are adhering to the regulations and meeting or exceeding the standards.”

The report said that in a “perverse outcome”, current regulatory requirements meant that staff members were tied up with paperwork at the expense of providing better care.

On the same day that the commission’s final report was launched, the Australian Catholic University’s Professor Tracey McDonald told a seminar at Aged and Community Services Australia’s (ACSA) national conference that compliance accounts for as much as 30 per cent of aged care costs.

“The command and control approach to regulation has a poor track record,” she said.

But Professor McDonald warned that moves to open up access to aged care could lead to some unintended consequences for providers.

“It’s not surprising that there are calls for deregulation from the front line where micro-regulation dominates,” she said.

“But you need to be careful what you ask for – you may just get it.”

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