Stronger Penalties to Protect Australians in Aged Care

  • Labor will introduce tough penalties and new transparency measures to protect Australians in aged care.

  • Currently, substandard care is widespread and accountability for those responsible is often not achieved.

  • Labor’s plan will stop dodgy providers neglecting and mistreating their residents and ensure full transparency about where residents’ and taxpayers’ money is being spent.

Why do we need this?

Since the Aged Care Royal Commission was called, we’ve heard one shocking example after another of outrageous and unacceptable breaches of care standards, including:

  • Homes re-serving uneaten food from one resident, pureed, to other residents.
  • Delays in identifying and treating wounds leading to severe pain and chronic conditions.
  • Overuse of restraints.
  • Demeaning practices such as ‘floor time’.
  • Management ignoring family complaints.
  • Failures in maintaining clinical standards and audits.

This is also a sector which the public believe lacks transparency around taxpayer funding – a recent report found just 16% of people thought it was open and transparent. There have been too many high-profile stories of dodgy providers misusing funds meant for the care of older Australians.

But the Morrison Government’s response to the Aged Care Royal Commission has fallen short. Too many recommendations have been fobbed off or delayed. The Morrison Government has turned a blind eye to dodgy aged care providers who put their own profits ahead of the needs of people in their care

Older Australians need a government that isn’t afraid to put the dodgy providers on notice and take a tough stance on protecting their safety.

The vast majority of providers are doing the right thing and do not want to see poor practices continue to damage the reputation of the sector. That’s why Labor will invest in aged care, so dedicated providers and staff can better provide this important, valuable service.

The Detail

Labor will introduce:

A new General Duty of Care this will be a level of care and service that providers will need to guarantee for residents. It will be backed up with a compensation regime if the duty is breached. This will create a path for class actions against dodgy providers. The new General Duty of Care responds to the Royal Commission’s recommendations and will ensure providers have a clear understanding of their legal responsibilities.

Criminal and civil penalties – including jail time – for dodgy aged care providers – these penalties will be for the most serious breaches of the General Duty of Care, such as:

  • Serious and repeated breaches.
  • Breaches that are found to be deliberate; and
  • Those that facilitate and cover up abuse and neglect.

This will help to punish and deter the very worst cases of substandard care and negligence. This will implement and build on the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

A new aged care complaints commissioner – to ensure complaints against providers are properly and thoroughly dealt with. The Commissioner will be part of a new fast-tracked improved complaints process recommended by the Royal Commission to be within the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Making sure there is a dedicated, accessible, and accountable process to help residents, families and aged care workers report and resolve issues and complaints. Labor will ensure the new complaints commissioner is in place by late 2022.

New civil penalties to protect people who make a complaint from retaliation – sadly, older Australians, their families and aged care workers are often too scared to make a complaint because they fear retribution. This change will protect people who stand up for residents’ rights – including whistle-blowers.

Stronger investigative powers – Labor will boost the powers of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. This will include powers to enter and remain in an aged care facility at any time, to ensure the safety of residents, as well as full access to documents and records. This change will put the dignity and safety of residents first.

Mandatory care time reporting – to ensure that funding for care and nursing is actually spent on care and clinical support, not on marketing, administration, maintenance or other activities that are not direct care. Labor will increase care time to 215 minutes per resident per day, in line with the Royal Commission’s recommendations. This includes at least 44 minutes with a registered nurse.

Require providers to publicly report on the expenditure of residents’ and taxpayers’ money – Labor will require all aged care providers to provide a breakdown of their expenditure as part of the Aged Care Financial Report. Providers will be required to show how much is spent on care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning, administration, and profits. This will help rebuild trust in the sector and ensure that residents’ and taxpayers’ funds are being spent on the care of older Australians.

Expenditure and care time reports will be made publicly available on MyAgedCare and provided to residents and families.

These changes will cost $9.8 million over the election forward estimates.