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Thursday, 24 May 2018
Page: 4541


Mr WYATT (HasluckMinister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health) (10:47): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

The Aged Care (Single Quality Framework) Reform Bill 2018 contributes to the implementation of the Australian government's 2015-16 budget decision to work with the sector to develop a new unified quality framework, which includes a single set of consumer focused quality standards which will apply across all aged-care programs.

This bill lays the foundation for the introduction of a single set of aged-care standards, to be called the Aged Care Quality Standards, to apply to providers of Commonwealth funded aged care.

The single quality framework places consumers at the centre of their care and focuses on giving people greater choice and flexibility. It is part of the reforms being progressively implemented in aged care to create a competitive, market based system where consumers drive quality and where red tape is reduced for providers of aged care.

By providing for a single set of standards that apply across all aged-care programs, the amendments are intended to, once implemented, drive improvements to the quality of care delivered to older Australians, decrease regulatory burden on aged-care providers and encourage innovation, excellence and continuous improvement.

Currently, there are four sets of quality standards that apply to providers of aged-care services:

Accreditation Standards, which apply to residential aged-care services and some forms of flexible care;

Home Care Standards, which apply to home-care services, Commonwealth Home Support Program services, and some forms of flexible care;

Transition Care Standards, which apply to providers of transition care; and

the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program quality framework, which applies to providers under that program.

With these amendments, provision will be made for the same set of quality standards to apply across all types of aged-care services for the first time. The introduction of the new standards will also reflect contemporary evidence and community expectations of the quality of care and services, with the Accreditation Standards being updated for the first time in 20 years.

The Aged Care Quality Standards will be enacted through amendments to the Quality of Care Principles 2014, issued by the Minister for Aged Care under the Aged Care Act 1997, consistent with the manner in which current Accreditation Standards and Home Care Standards have been issued. Principles are subject to parliamentary scrutiny and disallowance, meaning that the final content of the Aged Care Quality Standards will be able to be transparently reviewed by parliament.

A single set of standards will increase consistency across aged-care services and make it easier for consumers, and their families, carers, and representatives, to make choices about care and services, including as care needs change. Not only will the standards focus on quality and safety for consumers, they will also encourage providers to offer care and services that promote quality of life and wellbeing by placing greater emphasis on consumer choice and identity and partnering with the consumers in their care.

The Aged Care Quality Standards to be made under the reforms in this bill have been developed through significant consultation and co-designed with the aged-care sector. The Department of Health has undertaken research and consultation with the public, the aged-care sector, and other government organisations. A standards technical advisory group was also established by the department. The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency is developing guidance and educational material to support assessment of the standards, and has conducted field testing of the draft set of standards.

In October 2017, the government released the Review of national aged care regulatory processes which included recommendations regarding the content of aged-care quality standards. These recommendations are being addressed through the new Aged Care Quality Standards.

The bill also makes amendments to the Australian Aged Care Quality Act 2013, to provide the Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency with the power to accredit residential aged-care services and to conduct quality reviews of home-care service providers, in accordance with the standards of the new Aged Care Quality Standards.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency will also have the power to assess the quality of flexible care services, Commonwealth Home Support services and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program services, through a specification instrument made by the Minister for Aged Care.

The bill also makes amendments to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 so that protected information is exempt from the provisions of that act. Protected information is information collected by the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency in the course of its functions that is either personal information or information that relates to the affairs of an approved provider. The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency Act 2013 already contains criminal penalty provisions for unauthorised disclosure of protected information.

The Aged Care Quality Standards are an important part of the broader aged-care regulatory framework—they promote consumer confidence that Australian government funded aged-care services are safe and of a consistent quality, by setting out core expectations that apply across all services. This bill is an important part of the government's reforms to promote quality aged-care services that focus on outcomes for consumers.

Debate adjourned.