Major Aged Care Reforms: What to expect
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Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to Undergo Major Changes

18/06/24
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The capabilities and performance of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) were reviewed last year with the results published in July 2023 in the Final Report – Independent Capability Review of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. The Final Report made 32 recommendations for reform of the Commission.

In June 2024, the Minister for Aged Care announced that the Government accepts and will implement all 32 recommendations. In this article we summarise the review, the recommendations and the next steps for the Commission.

 

Aims of the Review

The aim of the review was to assess the Commission’s performance by examining its “strengths, opportunities and weaknesses, and the extent to which these inhibit or enable a high-performing, contemporary, best practice regulator”.

 

How Well Did the Commission Perform?

According to the Final Report, “The Commission is taking important steps to ensure that it evolves into a high performing regulator. There is much to build from, and I commend the work of the Commissioner, her team and staff across the organisation for these steps. However, it is clear that there is much more to be done”.

 

What Does the Commission Need to Change?

The Final Report identified several areas where the Commission needed to improve, in many cases as a “matter of urgency”. You can read each of the 32 specific recommendations at pages 10-13 of the report, but for now here is a summary of the key areas.

 

Organisational Structure and Governance

The Commission needs to fix its organisational structure, senior leadership, and internal governance. This includes:

  • empower and recruit more senior staff
  • change organisational structure to reduce silos and improve accountability and delegation
  • improve workforce and ICT systems, and recruit workforce and ICT expertise
  • follow a new set of internal governance arrangements, with oversight by a new Deputy Commissioner Corporate.

 

Complaints Handling and the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)

The Commission must fix significant problems in its complaints process and Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS). This includes:

  • review the complaints system to “ensure that complaints are triaged appropriately, that complainants have assurance that concerns are being followed up, and the wider community gain trust that matters of concern to older Australians and their families are getting priority attention”
  • ensure regular and more detailed reporting on complaints and SIRS
  • appoint the new Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

 

Transparency, Accountability and Collaboration

The Commission must “improve transparency and accountability by sharing information, engaging more openly and working with providers”. Specifically:

  • adopt a far more collaborative approach to shaping and delivering its regulatory responsibilities and work program
  • partner with providers and peaks
  • utilise opportunities for co-design with providers and consumers
  • acquire a better understanding of the diverse needs and circumstances of aged care consumers and their communities, “especially First Nations people, culturally and linguistically diverse people, people with dementia, veterans and LGBTIQ+ people, and older people living in regional and remote communities”
  • gather and share “much more information and data – on its own performance, but also providers, and what works, and what the key issues are”
  • collaborate with the Department of Health and Aged Care to “ensure priorities are better articulated and understood, better data sharing, role clarity between the two agencies and their staff, and improved coordination of messaging and engagement with the sector. This is of critical importance for matters like education and support for providers”.

 

Change the Resourcing Model

The report recommended that “a resourcing model be developed that includes for some functions a funding mechanism that sees its appropriation revenue directly determined by estimated workloads, which can be adjusted

throughout each year based on actual workload – a demand-driven mechanism”.

 

Government Response and Next Steps

In June 2024 the Government issued its official response to the Final Report, which included a commitment to implement all 32 recommendations. According to this response, “six recommendations have been completed and by the end of 2024, the majority of recommendations will be delivered. Delivery timeframes are aligned with the existing aged care reform agenda and the Government’s budget cycle”.

However, given that proposed major reforms to the Aged Care Act were recently postponed from 1 July 2024 to 1 July 2025, it’s wise to assume that the 32 reforms to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will be similarly delayed, and that we are likely to see them rolled out gradually across 2024 and into the first half of 2025.

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About the Author

Mark Bryan

Mark is a Legal Content Consultant at Ideagen CompliSpace and the editor for Aged Care Essentials (ACE). Mark has worked as a Legal Policy Officer for the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department and the NSW Department of Justice. He also spent three years as lead editor for the private sessions narratives team at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts/Law from the Australian National University with First Class Honours in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Writing from UTS and a Graduate Certificate in Film Directing from the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

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