A week since its reintroduction by the Albanese Government, the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill – which stalled when first presented to parliament 1 September last year – has finally made it through both chambers of the house.
The bill – one of two brought before parliament last Tuesday – responds to 17 recommendations of the aged care royal commission’s final report, including:
- a framework for the new AN-ACC funding model for residential aged care with full implementation from 1 October 2022
- an extension of functions and name change of the hospital pricing authority to the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority
- the extension of the Serious Incident Response Scheme to home care settings by 1 December 2022
- the publication of star ratings of residential aged care services by the end of 2022
- the introduction of a new code of conduct for approved providers, aged care workers and governing persons from 1 December 2022
- the introduction of new reporting responsibilities for Commonwealth-funded providers.
First step on the journey to reform
“With today’s passage of the royal commission response bill, the government has taken a significant step to ensure older Australians receive the care, dignity and respect they deserve,” Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in a statement. “Having an aged care bill in response to the royal commission become the first to pass through parliament shows how seriously we take reform in the sector.”
On Twitter, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said: “Today the 47th parliament passed its first bill. We made a promise to Australians that we would take better care of their loved ones and restore dignity to our most vulnerable citizens. Reforming aged care will take years but this bill is a first step on the journey.”
” A significant milestone in aged care reform.”
Provider peak Aged & Community Care Providers Association welcomed the passage of the legislation, particularly the AN-ACC and Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority components of the bill.
“However,” said interim CEO Paul Sadler, “the government’s promise of 10 per cent increase in funding with the introduction of AN-ACC glosses over the fact that all of that additional funding will go towards hiring extra staff in order to meet the requirement for 200 minutes of care per resident per day by October 2023. That brings us back to the issue of funding and the need for a sustainable funding model for aged care into the future.”
Quick to respond to the news, the United Workers Union called the bill’s passing an “historic moment”. In a statement, UWU aged care director Carolyn Smith said: “The passage of the first piece of crucial aged care reforms offers the hope that the dark days of neglect are nearing an end.”
Aged care workers have fought hard on these issues, added Ms Smith and “are proud that the change that they have campaigned for is finally coming to fruition.”
The Older Person’s Advocacy Network also welcomed the passing of the bill, calling it “a significant milestone in aged care reform.” Singling out AN-ACC, OPAN’s manager of policy and systemic advocacy Samantha Edmonds said: “A funding model that supports a consumer-directed approach within the residential setting is a much-needed improvement.”
Ms Edmonds also embraced the establishment of the star ratings system. “Star ratings enable a level of standardisation by which to measure aged care providers. It is a quick and hopefully credible way for older people, carers and family members to assess the quality of the service and compare that quality between providers.”
Aged care and disability workforce platform Mable said the passing of the royal commission response bill was “the first step of many” towards reforming an aged care system that is “ripe for improvement”.
“The issues in the sector are well known including improvement of the quality of care, ensuring we cater to individual needs and preferences, addressing chronic workforce shortages by attracting, training, rewarding and retaining the care workforce and managing the ongoing threat from Covid-19,” said Mable CEO Peter Scutt.
Meanwhile, the second piece of legislation – the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill has been referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee, which is due to report back on 31 August.