NATIONAL Seniors Australia has welcomed new federal legislation, establishing the Independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to address endemic failures in the aged care system.
The legislation was introduced this week, along with the Quality Standards Framework legislation, enabling the first upgrade to Australia’s aged care standards in more than 20 years.
The government also announced it would bring forward $90 million over the next four years, along with an extra $16 million, to be spent on aged care this financial year.
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The cash injection will allow the commission to hire an extra 54 staff members to help police the quality of aged care services, conduct audits and support older Australians wronged by the system.
It comes a week after harrowing video emerged of a ‘carer’ beating a resident with a shoe in Sydney.
National Seniors Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said the organisation supported the moves to better protect aged care residents.
In its submission to the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes last year, National Seniors stressed the need for more resources and support for quality assessors.
It also recommended unannounced accreditation inspections and more consumer input, with all residents or their representatives being interviewed by assessors rather than only 10 per cent.
The government agreed to 20 per cent, but Mr Henschke said that was “insufficient”.
“We argued that the accreditation and monitoring regime must operate in the interests of aged care recipients,” Mr Henschke said.
“The review came about after shocking incidents of neglect and abuse at Oakden in South Australia were revealed.
“Sadly, it was just one example of the systematic failure of the aged care regulatory process to ensure quality care for older Australians.
“These initiatives will address some of those failures, with the new standards more consumer-focussed and consumers having a single point of contact to raise concerns.
“Aged care providers will be more accountable for safety and quality, and instead of being told when quality assessors will be arriving – as they were in the past – inspections will be unannounced and can happen any day of the week or at any time.”
The new standards will be enforced from July 2019 across Australia’s 2700 aged care homes and their 366,000 staff.
The government also announced it would pull forward funding of $90 million over the next four years to this financial year to support aged care providers and bring them up to the new standards.
The funding included $50 million to retrain staff across the sector.
This will be available from next week to improve the quality and standard of care. Another $40 million will be used to upgrade the infrastructure of rural and regional aged care facilities.
Mr Henschke said aged care outside major cities was struggling and many providers were in debt.
“The early allocation of $40 million for aged care facilities in rural and regional areas is much needed,” he said.
“It’s imperative that older Australians are able, as far as possible, to age in their own communities because the outcomes are so much better.
“More staff training is also required, as revealed in our research for the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce.”