In July this year, those of us working in the aged care sector will experience yet another phase of the reform process.

All government-funded aged care services will be assessed against a new set of aged care standards. Some of you may be asking ‘why do we need a change from the current standards?’

The Current Aged Care Standards are more than 20 years old!  

new standards

When you think about what other things have changed in the last 20 years, a lot has happened.  We now have handheld computers as our mobile phones; social media that connects us to people and information across the world in seconds; smart watches and even ‘smart appliances’ that can be remotely controlled!

The current aged care standards were established as part of the reforms that occurred with the introduction of the Aged Care Act of 1997, so these were developed over 20 years ago. They are outdated and don’t reflect the current and future needs of our older generations.

I wanted to really get my head around this issue, so I talked it over with Donna. She is our representative on the Commonwealth Government Technical Advisory Group (TAG) that provided advice on the development of the new Aged Care Quality Standards over a period of nearly three years. This process was very involved, incorporating reviews of national and international ‘best practices’ and reviewing the existing standards, identifying their strengths, limitations, gaps and areas of duplication and regulatory ‘burden’. Looking at other quality standards in similar sectors, such as the National Health Standards, Disability and relevant state and territory standards was also part of the process.

Actively demonstrating how an organisation implements their processes and systems was another important drive for change.

Instead of focusing on what the processes and systems are, looking at how management and staff implement them to provide quality, relevant and meaningful care is now expected.

A single streamlined set of standards and new quality framework are also a key part of a response to the mistreatment of older people in the aged care setting – as highlighted by inquiries such as the one into the Oakden nursing home, where systematic abuse of residents occurred.

Aged Care inquiries and Reports like the Australian Government Productivity Commission ‘Caring for Older Australians’ and the subsequent ‘Aged Care Roadmap’ have also been key drivers towards a more contemporary quality framework for the whole aged care sector.

The ‘Quality Dialogue’ that came from community and stakeholder consultation as part of the Quality Agency’s Let’s talk about quality discussion paper in 2015, also promoted the concept of having consumers front and centre. It got people thinking about what was important to the consumer. Aging people today and into the future don’t want to receive a one size fits all; they want to get care and services that are right for them and helps them live the life they choose.

Some of you have been working in the industry for many years and know that there have been a few changes along the way.

In the early part of this decade, there were two different sets of standards in the community care sector, which became the Community Care Common Standards. These were later updated and rebranded as the Home Care Common Standards, but generally they kept to a similar format and intent.

In 2017, changes to legislation meant that a Home Care Package stayed with the consumer, even if the person changed their provider. This move towards Consumer Directed Care was a key step in giving the consumer control over their care.

The expectations of consumers, their family members, carers and the broader community has changed. What worked and was ‘accepted’ in the past is no longer appropriate. People now have the internet at their fingertips. They are a much more informed and assertive group – they’re not going to sit back and be ‘passive recipients’ of care. They want to remain in the driver’s seat and direct their life to the end.

Not only has the consumer group changed, but the general demographics of Australia has changed quite rapidly over the last two decades.

Our population growth is sustained by the intake of migrants rather than our birth rate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states that in 2018, nearly 25% of the Australian population was born overseas. We have a rapidly increasing aging population, including those who were born overseas and immigrated here.

People from rural and remote settings, indigenous people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) consumers also all need to have better recognition of their diversity, needs and preferences.

The ‘market’ and provider environment has also changed.

Another change that we’ve observed over time, is the increase in larger aged care specific organisations as opposed to smaller discrete services which may have been operating as an arm of a religious or cultural group, or local council. There are still a number of these smaller organisations around, but we are now seeing aged care organisations operating more than just one program.

In the past, a Local Council might have run a meals on wheels and domestic assistance service as a part of the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP). As time went on they took to supporting Home Care Packages. These two programs are both community-based and fall under the Home Care Common Standards, so really there was no big deal when going through a Quality Review – approximately every three years if everything was fine.

Remote services that also operated a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC) program (with its own set of standards and assessment criteria) required a separate review every two years. This meant that Quality Assessors needed to revisit the service and conduct a second review against the NATSIFAC standards as well as the usual review every three years against the Home Care Common Standards.

Then there are the organisations that operate Residential Care, often alongside their community-based services. They are accountable to the current Aged Care Standards and have their own accreditation requirements that need to be addressed and assessed.

But wait, that’s not all! Some flexible care providers delivering transition care are also assessed against the Transition Care Standards. Transition Care is a program that provides older people who have been in hospital with short-term, goal-oriented, therapy-focused packages of support aimed at helping them return home safely.

There are some organisations who are currently responding to two or more of these Quality Standards for Aged Care – you can see why they will welcome a change to a single set of Standards and Quality Framework for review!

This blog post is part of a series on the New Aged Care Standards, where we investigate how and why they were developed and take an in depth look at each of the Standards to give you ideas for implementing these effectively within your organisation. If this is of relevance to you and you’re not signed up for our short email alerts, fill in the quick form at the right of the page and we will let you know when the next post is released. We also send a monthly round up of blog posts and videos.

Other posts in this series

What Difference will the New Aged Care Standards make to Consumers?

What Impact Will The New Aged Care Standards Have On Your Organisation?

‘What About Me?' – Consumer Dignity & Choice | New Aged Care Standard #1

‘We're All In This Together' – Ongoing Assessment & Planning | New Aged Care Standard #2

‘Stand By You' – Personal Care & Clinical Care | New Aged Care Standard #3

‘Help me get my feet back on the ground' – Services & Supports for Daily Living | New Aged Care Standard #4

‘Wouldn't It Be Loverly?' – Organisation's Service Environment | New Aged Care Standard #5

‘Who Ya Gonna Call?' – Feedback & Complaints | New Aged Care Standard #6

‘Lean On Me' – Human Resources | New Aged Care Standard #7

‘The Greatest Show' – Organisational Governance | New Aged Care Standard #8

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