Act delay draws mixed reactions

Consumer groups repeat calls for a 2024 start to new Act, while providers welcome the chance for more consultation.

Consumer advocacy groups have strongly reiterated calls for the federal government to deliver the new Aged Care Act sooner rather than later after it announced last week that it intends to “update the commencement date of the legislation,” which was due to take effect on 1 July.

Recommended by the aged royal commission in its final report in 2021, the reforms could now be delayed by more than a year, with July 2025 predicted as the new implementation date.

Asked for comment, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Aged Care told Community Care Review: “The department is working with legislative drafters to finalise the bill as soon as possible … Introduction and commencement timeframes relating to the bill for the new Aged Care Act are decisions for government.”

Craig Gear

Following a previous call for the government to hit the 1 July deadline, Craig Gear – chief executive officer of the Older Persons Advocacy  Network – told CCR: “2024 has to be the year we get a rights-based Aged Care Act. Older people need their rights enshrined in legislation.”

However, provider peak body the Aged & Community Care Providers Association views the delay as an opportunity to provide continued input into the creation of the new Act.

“We of course want to see the legislation passed and implemented as soon as practical,” said ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson. “But this allows more time to engage meaningfully with older people, the community, the sector and other stakeholders. It is far more important that the legislation and associated requirements be passed when it is ready, than passed to meet the 1 July date.”

Tom Symondson

ACCPA is calling for at least six to 12 months transition from the time at which all information is available – including the finalised Act, rules, guidance and education materials. “A staged approach to implementation of these new reforms should also be adopted so providers can effectively manage change within their organisations, their workforce and engage with their residents and care recipients,” said Mr Symondson.

The Act, he added, is a chance to usher in a new era to reform Australia’s aged care system. “So, we need to make sure that the legislation – which will likely govern the aged care sector for the next 30 years – is not rushed. We need to get this right.”

Simon Miller

Christian not-for-profit residential aged care and home care provider Anglicare Sydney also welcomed the chance for further consultation. “Alongside other leading aged care providers, care workers, advocates, older Australians, their families and community members, we have provided extensive feedback to the government,” said CEO Simon Miller. “I’m pleased that the government is taking the additional time required to listen and respond to the extensive sector and community feedback.”

The best news we’ve had on this front for months

Daniel Gannon

Daniel Gannon – executive director of the Retirement Living Council – described the delay of the Act as “the best news we’ve had on this front for months … Genuine consultation on the bill was a challenge from the outset and, while the extended timeframe to provide submissions was welcomed, key sections of the legislation are yet to be drafted.”

Daniel Gannon

The delay in the release of the recommendations of the Aged Care Taskforce also prevented stakeholders from meaningfully understanding future funding proposals for the provision of aged care services, said Mr Gannon, “which has flow-on impacts to the retirement living sector.”

For these reasons, deferring the commencement date for the new Act “is an obvious and welcome development to ensure we get it right,” said Mr Gannon. “Frankly, it’s too important to get wrong.”

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Tags: ACCPA, Aged Care Act, anglicare sydney, cota australia, Craig Gear, daniel-gannon, Department of Health and Aged Care, opan, retirement living council, simon miller, Tom Symondson,

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