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2024 A Year of Reform: How new whistleblower rules will impact aged care

2024 is shaping up to be a year of mega reform for the Aged Care Sector with the Aged Care Act, new (“strengthened”) Aged Care Quality Standards and a new model for regulating aged care, all set to become law around July 2024.

The new Aged Care Act is set to introduce new and enhanced whistleblower rules, offering increased protections to workers and clearer guidelines and requirements for employers and their whistleblower policies.

In its recent webinar, Ideagen detailed what the new whistleblower protections mean for aged care providers, highlighting the current rules, what's changing and how providers can prepare for the new rules.

Key points:

  • Whistleblowing occurs when individuals speak out or disclose information. When a disclosure is made, that person is protected and recognised by the law
  • The new Aged Care Act imposes statutory duties on registered providers and responsible persons to support and protect whistleblowers – this includes an official whistleblower policy.
  • The new Aged Care Act provides protection to any individual making a disclosure, offering broader coverage than the current protections available under the Aged Care Act 1997.

Nick Edwards, Senior Legal Content Associate at Ideagen, said providers need to pay close attention to the whistleblower reforms coming in from mid-2024 as there are penalties that could be applied if the new rules aren't followed.

One significant change involves broadening the rules to offer individuals increased protection when disclosing information to designated recipients like Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission staff, a responsible individual or a fellow aged care worker.

“The current rules in the Aged Care Act say that disclosures can be made by eligible people, which includes current and former staff, contractors, volunteers, consumers and their families. Under the new rules in the draft Aged Care Act, any individual will be qualified for protection if they make a disclosure,” Mr Edwards said.

“Your legal obligations, in an overarching sense, are to empower people to disclose, identify eligible disclosures, protect those people and respond to the disclosure,” he added.

The short informative webinar highlights the importance of four areas - empower, identify, protect and respond - which are crucial components of a successful whistleblower policy.

While there is often a general perception that whistleblowing is negative, it is important to recognise the benefits of disclosing wrongdoings and potential hazards in allowing organisations to act and resolve issues through established processes. Ensuring the protection and empowerment of your staff is paramount in this process. Mr. Edwards emphasised the importance of enabling individuals to "blow the whistle" easily, underscoring the necessity for providers to facilitate this process. You can access the webinar on demand for practical tips on:

  • Implementing policies and safeguards to establish a whistleblower program
  • Ensuring clarity on rules for both management and staff
  • Educating staff on the types of misconduct reportable through the whistleblower program
  • Recognising when a complaint or report is filed
  • Understanding the nature of complaints that warrant protection, such as those falling under the Serious Incident Response Scheme (SIRS)

About Ideagen

Ideagen are experts in governance, risk, compliance and policy management. Ideagen's CompliSpace solution helps residential aged care and home care providers of all sizes in Australia to meet their governance, risk, compliance and policy management obligations. For more information, click here.

You can access more information and resources on whistleblower changes and other upcoming aged care reforms below:

  • Ideagen's whistleblower reforms webinar and its free guide on the new protections and obligations.
  • The exposure draft containing all relevant details on whistleblower protections in the Aged Care Act.
  • Ideagen’s guide covering the three major reforms this year – the New Aged Care Act, updated Aged Care Quality Standards and the revamped regulatory model – and what providers can expect.
  • Aged Care Essentials (ACE) – Ideagen’s fortnightly publication helping aged care providers stay up to date on the latest news and regulatory changes including upcoming reforms.
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