Act ‘idealistic’ and ‘aspirational’, say stakeholders

Despite concerns, the majority of respondents think the legislation will improve the system.

Providers have questioned the sector’s ability to deliver services that preserve the rights contained in the new Aged Care Act, a government report reveals.

The Aged Care Act – which is due to take effect from 1 July 2025 – features a Statement of Rights to ensure older people’s needs are, and remain, at the centre of the aged care system.

Released on Monday by the Department of Health and Aged Care, the consultation feedback report includes stakeholder concerns – including those of many aged care providers – that some rights detailed in the exposure draft “are idealistic and not feasible practically.”

The right to “equitable access” and “freedom of choice” were highlighted as being particularly problematic as they “appear to be aspirational and difficult to uphold for aged care providers” especially in outer metro regions of the country with a scarcity of workers, facilities and services. They could also “create exceedingly high expectations from older people.”

“It was suggested,” say the report’s authors, “that the new Act should provide further clarification and expansion on the intersection between access and choice to ensure that these concepts are clearly defined and achievable.”

First Nations’ respondents also commented that access and availability of culturally and safe care “is not equal between metropolitan and regional, rural, and remote areas.” Older people living in those areas, said the respondents, were disadvantaged. It was proposed that the new Act should state that culturally safe and culturally appropriate care should be available, “regardless of location or care settings”.

Stakeholders are also worried, say the report’s authors, that a failure to live up to the Statement of Rights could place providers “at risk of an influx of complaints, reputational damage, and additional regulatory action.” In order to protect operators, stakeholders proposed that the new Act should specify that it should be the responsibility of the aged care sector as a whole to collectively uphold the Statement of Rights, not solely providers.

The definition of high-quality care also elicited a strong stakeholder response, with many concerned how they will meet the “aspirational” requirements outlined in the exposure draft and how the elements will be quantified and measured. Terms such as “kindness”, “respectful”, and “timely manner” were dismissed as “motherhood statements”. Stakeholders suggested evidence-based care remain the industry standard to which providers are held and measured.

Many stakeholders expressed “significant concern” over the definition of aged care worker, which includes volunteers. “They argue that there are clear distinctions between the roles and responsibilities of paid employees and those who volunteer, and thus, the term should not encompass both.”

Many providers are concerned that the exposure draft also fails to include the rights of staff to work in a safe environment. “The new Act should set out expected behaviour of older people who enter the aged care system, particularly when interacting with aged care workers,” say the report’s authors.

Still with the workforce, overwhelmingly, stakeholders across the aged care sector identified “a critical need” for the standardisation of qualifications and training. “They have noted inconsistencies in the quality of outcomes produced by aged care workers due to varying levels of experience, qualification, and knowledge,” say the report’s authors. “Additionally, there are concerns about the ability of approved needs assessors to provide inclusive and culturally appropriate needs assessments.”

Elsewhere in the 90-page report, stakeholders:

  • requested additional safeguards for the use of restrictive practices
  • would like carers to be recognised with rights and protections
  • in rural and remote areas requested greater flexibility in conducting worker screening
  • expressed that aged care digital platform operators should be registered providers and have appropriate governance and transparency to ensure user protection
  • complained about a lack of clarity regarding the roles and interplay of government agencies
  • called for increased protections for whistleblowers.

Despite the misgivings, the majority of respondents – who provided input through submissions, surveys, face-to-face workshops and online roundtables – “expressed positive views regarding the clarity and the perceived effectiveness” of the proposed legislation.

Source: Department of Health and Aged Care

Indeed, 71 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the legislative proposals contained in the exposure draft are clear. Meanwhile, 61 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the new Act will help build an improved aged care system.

More than 2,600 stakeholders participated in the eight-week consultation process – which concluded on 8 March. Having received the feedback, the department will consider stakeholders’ concerns and suggestions and make necessary revisions to the exposure draft before it is introduced to parliament.

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Tags: Aged Care Act, consultation, feedback, report,

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