Older Australians and those close to them want human rights to be the top priority in the upcoming Aged Care Act, according to a new submission.
Thirteen organisations released the findings of their joint inquiry into the Foundation of the Aged Care Act based on information and recommendations by older Australians, their families, carers, and other key stakeholders.
In August, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells posted on X, urging people to have a say in building the new Aged Care Act.
"The Aged Care Act was created in 1997 by the Howard Government," Ms Wells said.
"Thirty years later, it still focuses on how providers run their services – not on the rights and needs of older people."
"The Albanese Government is working on a new Aged Care Act that puts older people at the front and centre of aged care – but we need your help to get it right."
The revised act will come into effect from 1 July 2024, with the Department of Health and Aged Care drafting a consultation document that outlines suggested components of the proposed act.
Key findings in the submission by the organisations include implementation and monitoring the rights of older people, a robust, effective, and person-centred complaints system, and support of decision-making of older Australians.
Chief of the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Patricia Sparrow said despite the findings being different, many had the same ideas.
"Putting the voice of older Australians at the centre of the discussion around the future of out aged care system is crucial," Ms Sparrow said.
"What we've found is that while people have a diverse range of views, the vast majority are united on many things, including the need to embed human rights in the new Aged Care Act."
"For too long, older Australians, whether due to systemic ageism or other factors, have not been given ownership of their lives when the time comes for them to access aged care – it's time that changed."
The submission also noted that the new act should clarify existing legislation rather than override it, with specific words to ensure the rights are clear.
One resident from a Darwin residential aged care said existing rights were "written in a way that is airy-fairy".
"Look like policy statements, not procedural requirements."
One example is the current legislation, which says aged care "assists older people to effectively participate in society on an equal basis with others, which will help promote positive community attitudes to ageing".
Based on a "human-centred" act, the proposed amendment "ensures people accessing or receiving funded aged care services continue to enjoy the rights to social participation on an equal basis with members of society more generally".
Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) chief Craig Gear said enforcing these rights was important.
"A significant number of older people also told us that the Act won't be worth the paper it is written on if it isn't supported by the necessary regulatory levers and enforcement pathways."
The draft of the new Aged Care Act will be ready in December of this year before being coming into effect in July 2024.Do you have an idea for a story?
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