Aged care stakeholders are in discussions with bureaucrats about the development of a rights-based aged care act, the head of the Older Persons Advocacy Network has told Australian Ageing Agenda.
It follows calls from a group of 25 aged care consumer stakeholder groups calling on the government to expand on its commitment to deliver a “consumer‐focused” aged care act to one centred on the rights of older people earlier this week.
The Australian Government announced in March and reiterated this week that it accepted the Royal Commission’s first three recommendations, which call for a new aged care act by 1 July 2023 based on the rights of older people receiving aged care and underpinned by 19 key principles.
However, it has consistently referred to the forthcoming legislation as a consumer-focused act.
This omission of the word rights led several raised the concerns of several aged care stakeholder organisations including the Older Persons Advocacy Network, COTA Australia, Dementia Australia, National Seniors Australia, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Carers Australia, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation and Allied Health Professionals Australia.
OPAN CEO Craig Gear said he welcomed the Government’s continued commitment to the three recommendations and said confirmed progress since the group raised their concerns publicly on Monday.
“Since the release of the media release we have commenced discussions with the Department of Health about the timeline and consultation process for the new aged care act, including the development the rights-based elements,” Mr Gear told AAA on Thursday.
Residents at the centre
Mr Gear said the group wants to ensure the rights of older people remained at the centre of the new act.
“We need to say that it’s a rights-based Aged Care Act. And it needs to mean that older people are front and centre, that they’re treated with dignity, respect, and that their independence is facilitated,” Mr Gear told AAA on Tuesday.
“We want something that’s empowering and respectful of older people.”
The new act must include mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing the rights of older people and there must be consequences for breaching those rights, Mr Gear said.
“So if someone’s rights are breached, there is a way to raise that and the breach of rights is resolved,” he said.
The stakeholders would also like the new act to include:
- the right to services being available in a timely manner, integrated with the community, to be locally available and to be in the least restrictive environment
- the right to liberty, freedom of movement, and freedom from physical and chemical restraint
- the right to have diversity supported and promoted
- the right to a quality end of life, with appropriate and timely access to palliative care supports and expertise
- the right for carers to access supports based on needs including for social participation.
Aged care act underway
In response to AAA’s questions sent this to Minister for Health and Aged Care Greg Hunt, a health department spokesperson reiterated the Federal Government’s March announcement that it would develop a “consumer-focused Aged Care Act” to commence from July 2023.
The spokesperson also reiterated that the government accepted the royal commission’s first three recommendations, which relate to:
- the new Aged Care Act
- the rights of older people receiving aged care
- key principles underpinning the new Act.
“The Department of Health is working with drafters from the Commonwealth Office of Parliamentary Counsel on the new Act.
“Implementation of Royal Commission recommendations 1-3 will be informed by the expertise of Commonwealth legislative drafters as well as consultation with the new Council of Elders and the National Aged Care Advisory Council,” the spokesperson told AAA on Tuesday.
Mr Geartold AAA on Thursday the stakeholders were pleased the government has reiterated its commitment to the royal commission’s first three recommendations.
He said OPAN and other aged care organisations would work with government to ensure the new Aged Care Act focused on the rights that older people.
“We look forward to continue to come to a common understanding and consulting on the rights-based elements during the drafting process of the new aged care act,” Mr Gear said.