Senior industry leaders have expressed surprise and confusion at the Minister for Ageing’s proposal to change the police check requirements for people working in Commonwealth-funded aged care.

Justine Elliot told parliament that she wants the police checks to be extended to staff who have supervised access to residents and clients.

Current regulations only require police checks for staff with unsupervised access.

But Aged Care Association Australia’s (ACAA) CEO, Rod Young, said that as far as he could tell without having been consulted, the announcement was “baffling” as most providers have already obtained police checks for all staff and volunteers.

“At this stage I am totally nonplussed,” he said. “As far as I’m aware, most employers using the current requirements have found it very difficult to differentiate between supervised and unsupervised sfaff and so they have had all their staff checked.”

“Given the very high level of conformance from industry to the police checks for all volunteers and staff, it doesn’t seem to make much sense.”

Greg Mundy, the CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) agreed, saying the current police check requirements had already placed a serious burden on the industry.

“We estimate that it has already cost the industry $25-30 million to introduce the police checks without any financial support from the Government and that has diverted scarce resources away from direct care,” he said.

A statement from the Minister said she had asked the Department of Health and Ageing’s Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance to review the police checks earlier this month.

Following the review, the Minister said the current guidelines, which were introduced by the former government in March last year, had been found to be “inadequate”.

Mrs Elliot has asked the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance to write to all of the nation’s Commonwealth-funded aged care providers to inform them of her “intention to toughen the guidelines and seek their views”.

She has also asked the Department of Health and Ageing to consult with the relevant unions and peak body organisations to address any “unforeseen implications” of the police checks.

“Protecting our older Australians within nursing homes is a serious issue, and I hope to have the guidelines in place later this year,” the Minister said in parliament.

“I know that there will be some people in the community who will oppose these stricter police checks, but I make no apologies to anybody for protecting older Australians.”

Australian Ageing Agenda contacted the Minister’s office but no further comment was given.

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