Aged care overhaul: New funding and legislation for watchdog

Health Minister Greg Hunt will introduce the legislation on Wednesday, alongside PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Health Minister Greg Hunt will introduce the legislation on Wednesday, alongside PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The federal government is sharpening the teeth of a new aged care watchdog committing $16 million to crack down on facility operators.

On Wednesday the coalition government will introduce legislation to establish the new independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to address the endemic failures in the aged care system.

In a joint announcement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Health Minister Greg Hunt and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt will herald the first upgrade to Australia’s aged care standards in more than 20 years.

The additional $16 million will enable the commission to hire 24 staff members this year and another 30 next year to police the quality of aged care services, bolster specialist teams tasked with responding to complaints, conducting audits and supporting older Australians wronged by the system trusted with their care.

As heart-rending stories of aged care failures continue to bubble to the surface, the new funding and legislation aim to stamp out egregious practices within the sector.

“Our message is clear – any organisation or person doing the wrong thing will be found. Sub-standard care will not be tolerated, including the option to shut down an operator doing the wrong thing,” Mr Hunt said.

“The overwhelming majority of aged care providers do the right thing but we recognise some have not been up to scratch.”

The new standards will be enforced from July 2019 across Australia’s 2700 aged care homes and their 366,000 staff.

A total of $90 million due to be rolled out over the next four years will be pulled forward to this financial year to support aged care providers and bring them up to new standards.

This funding included $40 million to upgrade the infrastructure of rural and regional aged care facilities and $50 million to retrain staff across the sector.

The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission will bring together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

A new Chief Clinical Adviser under the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner will also be appointed.

From January 1, 2020, the Commission will take over the aged care regulatory functions of the Department of Health including provider approvals, quality and prudential compliance, and compulsory reporting.

“There will be no more silos – there will be instant and constant communication on compliance, risks and complaints,” Mr Hunt said.