The consultation about the Aged Care Bill 2023 (the Bill) has been extended to 8 March 2024. For more information about this consultation see https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/aged-care-act/consultation.

This Bill remains a work in progress with the funding mechanisms of the Aged Care System still not fully detailed. From commentary made at an aged care consultation workshop attended by Michael Perkins, there was an expectation expressed that the funding mechanisms once announced would lay a foundation for co-contributions to aged care by the public in a similar way they are sought to assist funding the health and disability systems. This will impact how people and families manage the cost of aged care and their longevity and challenge the definition of the role of professional aged care advisers and financial planners in the Aged Care System.

The Aged Care System, as detailed in the Bill, asks people, their supporters, representatives, carers and family to understand not only the formal aged care funding available but also the cost effectiveness of using digital platforms and alternate funding methods for Aged Care, especially when homecare and informal care and support is involved.

Mindful of the current focus on criminalisation of workplace conduct in dealing with the proposed right of an employee to disconnect from their workplace, the workplace standards relating to aged care providers is a contrasting regime where criminalisation of conduct is in full flight.

Because of the broad impact of the Bill, the Commonwealth Government is seeking input from:

  • older people, their families and carers
  • aged care providers and workers
  • advocates
  • volunteers
  • researchers
  • experts.

Having attended one consultation workshop in Sydney, here is a guide to the first Chapter of the Bill.

We hope this helps others consider the impact of this impending legislation on them.

We are happy to help people develop their submissions about the Bill. Please contact Michael Perkins if you want to discuss how we can help.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

This is the high level scene setting Chapter of the Bill. Its terms affect all people interacting with the Aged Care System. The title could I think be constructively renamed System Fundamentals.

How a person sees the Objects of the Bill affecting them and their situation is the starting point in understanding the impact of the Bill on the users of the Aged Care System, their representatives and supporters.

Given the UN Convention Compliance objectives of the Bill, we see little scope for altering the general pattern of this Chapter.

Section 5 – Objects of this Act

The objects of this Act are to:

(a) in conjunction with other laws, give effect to Australia’s 22 obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and

(b) provide a forward-looking aged care system that is designed to:

(i) uphold the rights of individuals under the Statement of Rights; and

(ii) assist individuals accessing funded aged care services to live active, self-determined and meaningful lives; and

(iii) ensure equitable access to, and flexible delivery of, funded aged care services that put older people first and take into account the needs of individuals, regardless of their location, background and life experience; and

(iv) support individuals accessing funded aged care services to effectively participate in society on an equal basis with others, thereby promoting positive community attitudes to ageing; and

(v) facilitate access to integrated services in other sectors where required; and

(c) enable individuals accessing funded aged care services to exercise choice and control in the planning and delivery of those services; and

(d) ensure individuals accessing funded aged care services are free from mistreatment, neglect and harm from poor quality or unsafe care; and

(e) provide a robust and risk-based regulatory framework for the delivery of funded aged care services, including accessible complaint mechanisms for individuals accessing those services, that will promote public confidence and trust in the Commonwealth aged care system; and

(f) provide and support education and advocacy arrangements that can assist individuals accessing funded aged care services to understand their rights, make decisions and provide feedback on the delivery of their services without reprisal; and

(g) provide for sustainable funding arrangements for the delivery of funded aged care services by a diverse, trained and appropriately skilled workforce; and

(h) promote innovation in the Commonwealth aged care system based on research and support continuous improvement in the Commonwealth aged care system.

As a starting point, let’s consider the objective in section 5 (b) (ii) to assist individuals to live “active, self determined and meaningful lives”.

How is this to be meaningfully translated into a requirement to which service providers and supporters can respond?

At s.5 (f) support and advocacy arrangements are contemplated BUT not linked directly to the choice of people to choose their representatives and supporters and entrench the choices they have made under state based laws or powers of attorney and guardianship in the representation of their interests under the Aged Care System.

It is important to remember, this is principle based legislation. How the legislation will operate on a day to day basis will be a matter of the regulatory regime also implemented to support the Aged Care system.

The more we look at the Bill, the clearer it seems that the deployment of this new Aged Care System will place both challenges and choices on users of the Aged Care System to consider how they manage the ageing and longevity of themselves and those for whom they care.

Our immediate focus is on continuing to help clients hold their personal representatives accountable to their values, estate administration intentions and care plans. This professional service obligation will only become more complex as this Bill is completed and enacted.

The exposure draft of the Bill for the new Aged Care Act can be found here.