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Charter of Rights

A new charter for stronger aged care rights

As the aged care royal commission continues to reveal deeply troubling cases of mismanagement and elder abuse, a new charter aims to shore up the dignity and protection of aged care residents.

Released under the federal government’s aged care quality and safety reforms, providers will be bound by law to provide a signed copy of the Charter of Rights to all residents and care recipients. The option for the consumer or an authorised representative to co-sign the document has also been introduced.

Signing is not compulsory for the consumer, however, and declining to do so will not bar them from either commencing or continuing to receive care and services.

“The comprehensive new Charter covers 14 fundamental protections – from safe, quality care, to independence, information, personal privacy, control, fairness and choice,” said Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Ken Wyatt.

“Being treated with dignity and living without abuse and neglect are among the top tiers of the new Charter.”

The document also includes the right to have a consumer’s “identity, culture and diversity valued and supported,” and to be able to “complain free from reprisal”.

Coming into effect on July 1, the Charter is a reinforced replacement of four previous versions and was developed during 2018 in consultation with various stakeholders. Five-hundred and fifty public submissions were received, with 40 per cent from aged care recipients, their families and carers, and 48 per cent from aged care providers, staff and peak organisations.

It has been welcomed by various peak advocates, including Dementia Australia and COTA Australia.

“This is all part of our Government’s unprecedented seniors and aged care agenda, including the recently announced elder abuse hotline and victim support trials,” said Wyatt.

“Rest assured, our reforms rollout will not stop, even as the Aged Care Royal Commission continues its critical work.”

The mid-year release of the Charter will coincide with and underpin the Morrison government’s Aged Care Quality Standards. It was designed to be concise, accessible and available in several different languages.

Providers have between three and six months to inform customers of their legal rights. Residential aged care providers have until 30 September 2019, while home care providers will have until 31 December of the same year.

For COTA, this delay is not good enough.

While commending the Charter’s substance, COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates expressed COTA’s “deep concern that the government has given in to pressure from provider groups to delay the requirement for providers to give the Charter to residents and home care consumers”.

“Why on earth would it take a provider nine months to tell consumers about the Charter? I am sure if they were telling them about an increase in fees it would only take a month or two at most!” Yates said.

“After recent experience with many home care providers not complying with the Minister’s requirement that they publish service information and prices in an understandable way, who knows when home care consumers will hear about their rights under the Charter?”

Wyatt urged all providers to supply a copy of the Charter to their customers ahead of deadline. “COTA will publicly welcome and draw to people’s attention [those who do],” Yates said.

A template of the Charter of Aged Care Rights is available from the Department of Health’s website.

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