Aged Care Reforms Fail to Prioritize Voices of Older Australians

Australia's new aged care laws raise concerns that industry lobbyists have had greater influence than older Australians, with limited enforceability of rights and delayed pay rises for workers.

Bijay Laxmi
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Aged Care Reforms Fail to Prioritize Voices of Older Australians

Aged Care Reforms Fail to Prioritize Voices of Older Australians

In the case of the Australian government's new aged care laws , which are touted as "once in a generation reforms," concerns are mounting that the voices of older Australians have been largely ignored in the process. Despite claims that the reforms put older people and their families at the center of policy, industry lobbyists and providers appear to have had a greater influence on the new legislation.

One glaring issue is that the government has not even drafted the section of the act dealing with fees and payments, despite the original July 1 deadline being abandoned. A taskforce reviewing funding for aged care has rejected the idea of a tax levy, instead suggesting that aged care payments be based on personal wealth - a proposal that has angered self-funded retirees.

Advocacy groups like COTA and OPAN, which receive significant government funding, are perceived as not adequately representing the concerns of older Australians. The final report of the taskforce on funding was released with changes that Margaret Walsh, a member of the Aged Care Council of Elders, did not approve.

Furthermore, the new act includes a provision stating that "nothing in this act creates rights or duties that are enforceable by proceedings in a court or tribunal," effectively limiting the ability of older Australians to seek redress for breaches of their rights.

The government's proposal to defer fully funding the pay increase for aged care workers until 2025 for non-direct care workers and 2026 for care staff has also been criticized by providers and unions. The delay is seen as "disappointing" and will "slow the urgent tasking of attracting and retaining staff" and "only add to the workforce crisis in the sector."

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission's Sector Performance Report for the December 2023 quarter reveals lower levels of complaints but continued non-compliance with clinical care and governance standards, with 66% of home care providers not complying with all 8 Quality Standards.

In the government's efforts to phase in the recommended pay rises for direct aged care nurses more gradually, citing concerns about potential labor shortages, the aged care industry is grappling with ongoing challenges. The strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards will be rolled out with the new Aged Care Act, but data shows that only 32% of aged care homes met both the mandatory care minute targets.

Why this matters:

While the government claims that the aged care reforms put older Australians at the center, the reality appears to be different. As stated by Margaret Walsh, a member of the Aged Care Council of Elders, changes were made to the final report on funding that she did not approve. The inclusion of a provision limiting the enforceability of rights in court further undermines the ability of older Australians to have their voices heard and their concerns addressed.

Key Takeaways

  • Aged care reforms criticized for lacking older Australians' input
  • Fees/payments section of new act not drafted, funding proposal angers retirees
  • Advocacy groups seen as not adequately representing older Australians' concerns
  • New act limits older Australians' ability to seek legal redress for rights violations
  • Gradual pay rises for aged care workers criticized, compliance issues persist