The Federal Government will pay for aged care residents to take extended leave because of a public crisis so neither residents nor providers are financially disadvantaged.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck announced amendments to aged care legislation passed on Thursday to allow aged care residents to access emergency leave during volatile situations including natural disasters and health epidemics.

Permanent residents are entitled to 52 days of social leave away from their aged care home for non-hospital related reasons, after which the Government stops paying the subsidy to facilities who in turn usually pass the cost on to the residents.

The emergency leave mechanism aims to avoid residents being penalised or disadvantaged for moving out of a facility during a crisis.

Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck, said the recent bushfires and current pandemic highlighted the need to protect leave entitlements of aged care residents.

Richard Colbeck

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, some aged care residents have temporarily relocated to live with family, to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus,” Mr Colbeck said.

“Most of these residents are likely to exhaust their 52 days before the pandemic passes, leading to extra costs on them or their families.

“The Government recognises that this isn’t fair or desirable. We have amended the Aged Care Act to give aged care residents the option of taking additional leave during an emergency.”

The Government will continue to provide the residential care subsidy for residents on emergency leave, so neither residents nor providers are financially disadvantaged, he said.

Eligibility for emergency leave will be backdated to 1 April this year.

Emergency leave will also be available for a specific region in crisis, such as during an isolated outbreak of COVID-19 or a major bushfire.

“This initiative will allow permanent aged care residents and their families to make their own decisions about personal safety in emergency situations, without suffering financially as a result,” Mr Colbeck said.

“It also means that after an emergency, residents can use their social leave entitlement for normal visiting and special events with their families and friends, which are so important for emotional and mental health.”

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