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Aged care residents to get extra social leave in pandemic

Aged care residents who have decided to leave their home due to the coronavirus pandemic will be covered by a new law that would allow them to take additional leave in extraordinary circumstances.

It would allow permanent residential aged care residents to take social leave above their current annual allocation of 52 days in situations like natural disasters or, indeed, pandemics.

The bill would cover the additional leave any resident may have taken from 1 April.

Currently, when a resident goes over their social leave entitlement, the aged care home no longer receives the government residential care subsidy for that person, and the provider is able to pass those costs onto the resident or their family.

Introducing the bill, Minister for Indigenous Australians and former aged care minister Ken Wyatt said the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the inadequacy of the current leave provisions.

“This bill ensures that permanent aged-care residents and their families are supported to make decisions about personal safety in emergency situations, and not suffer unnecessary financial burden as a result,” Wyatt said.

“It also ensures that, following an emergency, residents are still able to use their social leave entitlement to maintain their normal visiting and special events routine with their families and friends, which is important for emotional and mental health.”

The bill has Labor’s support. Shadow aged care minister Julie Collins said there are around 500 families using the social leave.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic many family members have made the decision to continue caring for their loved ones in their own home and not to return to the residential aged-care facility to receive this care,” Collins said.

“The consumer, the resident or their family, is required to pay the government subsidy of $230 per resident per day to save their place in the residential aged-care facility that they are taking leave from, so that they can go back into that facility when the pandemic is over.

“For many families and consumers this is a cost that they’re unable to sustain.”

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