Councils call for two years to implement new Aged Care Act

Local councils have called for a two year transition plan to implement the new Aged Care Act, saying they’ll need time to adapt their services to meet requirements under the new legislation.

Jenna Davey-Burns: committed to providing aged support

The new act has been beset with delays and uncertainty since being announced by the federal government as part of a package of reforms in the wake of the Aged Care Royal commission’s final report in 2021.

It was originally due to come into effect this month but has been pushed back until July 2025.

In a motion moved at the National General Assembly of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) in Canberra last week, Victoria’s largest provider of council aged care services called for certainty around the legislation, saying councils face a range of complexities in adapting to a new system.

City of Kingston moved that the NGA calls on the government to “work with aged care providers to develop a 24+ month transition plan that provides a staged and structured implementation of the new Aged Care Act.”

The motion notes that councils play an important role in providing vital aged care services to the community including community nursing, allied health, personal care, transport, meals on wheels , assistive technologies, home modification and post-hospital support.

They do so with relatively few resources, with many providers operating on federal grant funds of less than $1 million a year.

It says these services are facing significant change under the new Aged Care Act, and many older people will be left at risk if there isn’t a smooth transition.

“Despite the commonly used descriptors like ‘entry level’ or ‘basic support’, the reality is these services play a role in supporting the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our communities,” Kingston said.

Changes already being felt

Kingston, which submitted the motion in May when the go-live date was still scheduled for this month, has already felt the impact of the Commonwealth’s reforms, with changes to the assessment process for aged care support in the LGA.

The city has previously done its own assessments, but on July 1 it announced this will now be done by three companies under a single assessment system. Council will continue to provide services.

Mayor Jenna Davey-Burns said Council remained deeply committed to supporting its older residents to live with dignity, independence and care.

“As leaders in this vital space, it is our absolute duty to invest in supporting our older residents, delivering high quality home care services and ensuring Kingston remains a city where people can age well into the future,” she said.

More funding needed for community-based programs

Another motion by Camden Council in NSW called for more funding to develop seniors programs, which it says deliver benefits for the community and cost savings for federal and state governments.

The motion says councils are well placed to identify and respond to emerging needs and gaps in their local communities via partnerships with other agencies and organisations.

Camden says there’s growing pressure on local government to address community needs via programs like its Seniors Café Connect Project, an initiative of Council’s Active Ageing Strategy.

Camden residents connect at Cafe Connect (image: Camden Council)

Designed specifically for local seniors and supported by the NSW Government, the free initiative provides a one-stop-shop for activities, social opportunities and access to information about aged care services and service providers.

According to Council, the project not only provideds engagement and social connection, but 63 per cent of participants said they connected with or used an aged care service as a result of attending Café Connect.

Service providers also agreed the model helped address and deliver person-centred health and social care.

However, the initiative hasn’t been able to meet demand, with waiting lists to attend.

Complex fees and assessment process

Meanwhile,  a motion by NSW’s Midcoast Council, where more than half the resident population is aged over 55, called for a review of the current complex aged care fee and assessment system.

It says anyone entering aged care is faced with a complex system of assessment and fees including the widespread imposition of non-regulated payments to cover costs such as choice of menu, pay TV, additional fruit, a daily newspaper, a larger bed and even a better pillow.

Residents are also faced with regulated base fees, additional means tested fees, additional service fees and need to navigate a choice between a means tested accommodation deposit (RAD) or a daily accommodation payment.

In many cases the cost of care ends of exceeding the single age pension and while the fees are intended to increased costs faced by providers.

“For many aged care residents with limited financial resources this has proved challenging and unsustainable,” MidCoast said.

Council announced in February it was transitioning out of the delivery of ageing and disability services.

All three motions passed without opposition.

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