Australia’s older population is growing fast which means more older people will need aged care services.
Under National Health Reform, the Australian Government is shifting policy and funding responsibility for aged care services from states and territories to a national approach. This will enable more consistent and coordinated care for older people in their homes and also in aged care settings.
Since 2010, and under the National Health and Hospitals Network, the Australian Government has invested $739 million in aged care, including around 5,000 aged care places or beds.
Through the national aged care package, the Government is:
- taking full responsibility for aged care, including home and community care provided to older Australians in most states and territories;
- supporting the development of up to 2,500 new aged care places through Zero Real Interest Loans;
- providing an estimated $280 million to the states and territories to fund older Australians who are stuck in hospital waiting for an aged care place – freeing up valuable health funding and helping to end the blame game;
- increasing incentives to GPs to provide more services in aged care homes; and
- expanding the capacity of Multi-Purpose Services – which provide aged care and step-down services in small rural communities – by 286 sub-acute beds or bed-equivalents.
However, more reforms will be needed to ensure high quality and affordable aged care is accessible for future generations. On 8 August 2011, the Productivity Commission released the Inquiry Report Caring for Older Australians. The Commission’s report will be helpful in informing the way forward.
Achieving a more efficient aged care system is currently also being driven by:
- improving integration between hospitals and primary care services with a new ‘front end’ for aged care;
- a more transparent aged care complaints scheme;
- greater protection of residents’ life savings held in the form of aged care accommodation bonds; and
- building a skilled aged care workforce.
New ‘front end’ for aged careThe implementation of a new single entry to aged care services is linked to other health reforms including Local Hospital Networks and Medicare Locals.
The Government recognises the importance of the implementation of a single entry to the aged care system and has taken the first steps to make it easier for older Australians, their families, and carers to access information about aged care through:
- implementing a single national aged care information phone number, 1800 200 422; and
- improvements to the Aged Care Australia website.
Further reform is necessary and in this context the Government is considering its response to the Productivity Commission’s Final Report, Caring for Older Australians.
The front end reform supports the development of a nationally consistent aged care service via a single central entry point. It aims to offer improved continuity of care for care recipients, their families and carers.
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Aged Care Complaints SchemeThe Australian Government has improved the Aged Care Complaints Scheme’s (the Scheme) capacity to respond to complaints about Australian Government-subsidised aged care.
Reforms to the Scheme include:
- expanding the range of resolution options
- encouraging local resolution, where possible
- early risk assessment of complaints
- improved communication
- strengthened internal procedures, and
- the addition of the Commonwealth HACC to the types of services we can examine complaints about.
The improved Scheme is a result of the Australian Government’s decision to implement recommendations from an independent review of the Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme.
The Scheme now resolves concerns using a strengthened complaints framework, underpinned by the Complaints Principles 2011 (the Principles).
This improved framework provides:
- a greater focus on complaint resolution and protecting aged care recipients;
- several options to resolve complaints;
- a more robust risk assessment of individual complaints, to manage a complaint in the most appropriate way
- regular communication and consultation as part of the resolution process.
Complaints are examined using the Complaints Guidelines. This means the Scheme is able to resolve concerns using one or more approaches including early resolution, service provider resolution, conciliation, mediation and investigation.
HACC ServicesSince 1 July 2012, the Commonwealth has funded Commonwealth HACC services in all states and territories, except Western Australia and Victoria. This covers people aged 65 and over and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 50 and over.
Where the Commonwealth is funding HACC, and someone is unable to resolve their concern with the HACC service provider, they can contact the Scheme. The process for resolving HACC complaints draws on the Scheme’s current approach, which includes greater collaboration and more options for resolving complaints.
Changed Aged Care Commissioner powersWith the introduction of the Living Longer Living Better reforms, the Aged Care Commissioner’s (the Commissioner’s) powers in relation to the Scheme’s complaint outcome decisions were strengthened from 1 August 2013.
Go to the Aged Care Complaints Scheme website to read more about the changed Commissioner’s powers and for other information and resources or to provide feedback. You can also subscribe to the website to receive regular updates.
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Improving the regulation of aged care accommodation bondsFrom 1 October 2011, there are clearer and stronger arrangements to protect residents’ savings held in the form of accommodation bonds (bonds). The arrangements clarify the intended purpose for bonds as a source of capital for investment in aged care infrastructure. They also improve governance arrangements for bonds and provide greater transparency and accountability for bonds.
- clarify the permitted uses of bonds;
- introduce a two year transition period for approved providers to adjust and fully comply with the permitted uses;
- introduce a new Governance Standard for approved providers holding bonds;
- improve reporting and disclosure for greater transparency and consumer confidence;
- introduce additional information gathering powers for monitoring compliance;
- remove restrictions on the use of income from bonds, retention amounts and accommodation charges; and,
- introduce criminal penalties for the misuse of bond funds.
The arrangements are made through the Aged Care Amendment Act 2011 and the User Rights Amendment Principles 2011 (No.3).
These changes have been developed in close consultation with the aged care industry, consumer groups and the financial services sector.
Information has been prepared to assist approved providers and residents in understanding the new arrangements.
This information is available on the Department’s website at Protecting Residents’ Savings – arrangements for accommodation bonds.
Building a skilled aged care workforceThe Australian Government recognises highly trained and qualified staff is essential to delivering quality aged care.
Aged Care Workforce FundThe Aged Care Workforce Fund provides over $302 million to support the aged care workforce and build the capacity and skills of the aged care sector to improve quality of care.
Aged Care Education and Training Incentive ProgramThe Aged Care Education and Training Incentive Program provides incentive payments to eligible aged care workers who undertake specified education and training programs. This program builds on current workplace training programs that support people working in the aged care sector by providing financial assistance to existing aged care workers who undertake further studies to upgrade their qualifications and build their career in aged care. Further information on the ACETI program, including a copy of the guidelines and applications forms, are available on the website or can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
National Health Reform Progress and DeliveryView the National Health Reform Progress and Delivery report.
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The Tobacco Plain Packaging Information Kit provides practical information on the responsibilities and obligations of retailers and other suppliers of tobacco products under the new Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011.
eHealth.gov.au is your gateway to Australia's personally controlled electronic health record system, linking you to information about eHealth records and the system itself. Visit www.ehealth.gov.au
On 20 April 2012, the Prime Minister and Minister Butler unveiled a comprehensive package of reforms to build a better, fairer, more sustainable and more nationally consistent aged care system.