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Aged Care Bulletin 29 August 2019

The latest insights from our award-winning Aged Care legal team.

In this edition:

If you would like to learn more about Russell Kennedy's expertise in the Aged Care sector here.

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Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Regulatory Bulletin – Reconsideration of regulatory decisions

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission) has released a Regulatory Bulletin informing aged care providers of how they can obtain a reconsideration of certain regulatory decisions.

According to the Bulletin, approved providers of residential aged care and flexible care services can apply to have five types of decisions reconsidered by the Commission. These are:

  1. a decision not to accredit a commencing service;
  2. a decision not to re-accredit a service following a site audit;
  3. a decision regarding a service’s further period of accreditation following a site audit;
  4. a decision to revoke a service’s accreditation following an audit or a review audit; and
  5. a decision to vary a service’s period of accreditation following a review audit.

Following its receipt of a request, the Commissioner is required to personally reconsider the decision or have the decision reconsidered by a delegate. The original decision-maker will never undertake the reconsideration.

The new decision-maker will take into account with ‘fresh eyes’ all that was required to be considered by the original decision-maker, as well as any new and relevant pieces of information. The provider will receive confirmation of the new decision and the Commissioner’s reasons in writing.

Providers must request a reconsideration in writing and within 14 days of receiving notification of the original regulatory decision. The provider must also specify its reasons for requesting the Commission’s reconsideration. Applications for reconsideration can be submitted via email or post.

Timeframes for reconsideration differ depending on the type of decision being reconsidered, but none will exceed the maximum of eight weeks.

Ultimately, the Commissioner or delegate will affirm the original decision, vary the original decision or set aside the original decision and make a substitute decision. If the approved provider is dissatisfied with the reconsideration outcome, the approved provider can seek a further review by applying to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). Approved providers should note that there are time limits and fees associated with seeking an AAT review of the reconsideration, and legal advice should be obtained before taking this route.

To access further information on the process, including an email and postal address for reconsideration requests, click here.

Read more about the Aged Care Workforce Strategy here.

 

Aged Care Workforce Industry Council commences work

The Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (Council) was established earlier this year to prioritise and progress the 14 strategic actions coming out of Australia’s Aged Care Workforce Strategy – A Matter of Care.

The Council consists of 12 industry leaders representing providers, workers and consumers. The Council members are: Ian Hardy, Kevin McCoy (Australian Unity), Melissa Coad (United Voice), Graham Dangerfield (Baptcare), Sandra Hills OAM (Benetas), Ross Johnston (Regis, Guild Chair), David Maher (Catholic Healthcare), John McCallum (National Seniors Australia), Lucy O’Flaherty (Glenview Community Services), Graeme Prior (Hall and Prior), Cathy Thomas (BlueCare) and Ian Thorley (Estia Health).

Interim chair Ian Hardy (former CEO of Helping Hand) has recently stated that the Council has already commenced work on reframing the qualifications and skills framework (Action 3) and defining new pathways for how the workforce is accredited (Action 4) in collaboration with the Aged Services Industry Reference Committee.

He has further said that with the new Aged Care Quality Standards, now is the perfect time to implement change as “the workforce strategy deals with issues highly material to achieving the performance expected of aged care organisations under the new standards”.

Read more about the Aged Care Workforce Strategy here.

 

Victorian Government is committed to conduct food audit in hospital and aged care centres

In a media release dated 15 August 2019, the Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced that the Government is delivering on its commitment to conduct a food audit of meals served in hospitals and aged care facilities.

The audit will:

  • consider the nutritional value of food and drinks served, and how public hospitals and aged care facility menus cater to the diverse needs of modern diets;
  • assess the taste and variety of meals currently on offer;
  • look at ways to source food from local Victorian farmers and producers; and
  • look to reduce high fat and high salt foods from hospitals, either at the bedside, in hospital-run cafes or vending machines.

The audit will be led by Parliamentary Secretary for Health Anthony Carbines, who will work with health experts and hospitals.

After the audit, all public hospitals and aged care facilities will be required to follow the revised nutrition standards and guidelines.

Read the media release here.

 

Have your say on proposed alternative models for allocating residential aged care places

As the ageing population in Australia is growing and a greater emphasis is being placed on flexible living arrangements, people are pushing for more choice in aged care facilities.

The Department of Health recently released a discussion paper proposing two alternative models for allocating residential aged care places through the Aged Care Approvals Round (ACAR).

Currently, residential aged care provides accommodation and support to senior people who are unable to live at home through Government subsidised residential aged care. This subsidised aged care is allocated to approved providers.

The proposed changes arose as part of the 2018/19 budget: More Choices for a Longer Life package, which provided support to shift form the approach of allocating residential aged care through ACAR to a more consumer driven approach.

The Department of Health has designed the following two alternative allocation models to ensure that there is more consumer choice:

  1. improve the ACAR system; and
  2. assign residential aged care places to consumers, ceasing the allocation of residential aged care through approved providers.

The models are designed to provide opportunities for consumer choice, improve access to residential aged care and be financially sustainable for all stakeholders. The Department of Health is now seeking input from all stakeholders on the following questions:

  • whether the proposed models are appropriate?
  • whether other models should be considered?
  • what are the impacts of the models on stakeholders?
  • would there be any issues with implementing the models?

The Department of Health is welcoming feedback up until 13 September 2019.

To view the discussion paper please click here.

For further information regarding consultation sessions in your city and responding to the discussion paper please click here.

 

Deeming rates and base interest rate (BIR) changes 

On 13 July 2019, the Minister for Families and Social Services announced changes to the schedules for residential and home care fees and charges. The Minister announced a reduction in the deeming rates for the aged care pension income test which will take retrospective effect from 1 July 2019.

The deeming rates have not been changed since 2014. In the new schedule, for a single person earning $51,800, the deeming rate is reduced from 1.75% to 1.00%, and for amounts above that, the reduction would be from 3.25% to 3.00%.

Deeming rates are the amount of interest taken to have been earned on financial and other assets (for example, shares, term deposits and superannuation income) for the purpose of determining a pensioner’s income. If someone earns more than the deeming rate, their income is only assessed at the deeming rate. Over time, interest rates have changed, but deeming rates have not. This has caused some pensioners to be assessed as having earned income which they have not in fact earned.

This change also affects the base interest rate, which is now 3.75% per annum for new entrants into residential care from 1 July to 31 July, and for those entering from 1 August to 30 September will reduce to 3.00%.

You can read the updated schedule here.

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