Aged Care Royal Commission Update April 2019

Royal_Commission

As the second Adelaide hearing came to a close, those directly involved and those viewing from the sidelines were left experiencing a mixture of emotions from frustration, concern, desperation and surprisingly a little glimpse of hope.

Whilst the initial Adelaide hearing focussed on Residential Care, the second focussed on Home Care, My Aged Care, becoming a Home Care Provider and the Quality Review process. Many within the industry felt the initial Adelaide hearing was extremely intensive and the sector as a whole is feeling tired, however no stone was left unturned when it came to the Home Care hearing.

Over the course of the five (5) days, seven (7) participants/family members of participants provided evidence of their direct experience receiving Home Care, waiting for their approved packages and some of the pressures felt when attempting to choose a provider.

It continues to be concerning for the Australian public to hear of wait lists in excess of 12 months for much needed care, or even worse, people passing away before their package can be allocated.

With the Federal Budget being announced in the midst of the Royal Commission, aged care advocate organisations and supports are imploring the Government to hear the pleas of the 120,000-elderly waiting for their allocated package of care.

Representatives from the Department also provided evidence on the current systems surrounding provider applications and ongoing compliance.

Concerns were raised in relation to consulting companies not only writing applications on behalf of businesses, but also charging exuberant amounts to support businesses once sanctions have been imposed. One business who had been deemed non-compliant and had a sanction imposed paid in excess of $120,000 to a consulting firm to produce policies and procedures and perform required administrative tasks.

The Commissioners asked what many of us were thinking; what processes are in place to ensure applying businesses are appropriate if only 7 months in to their approval they are deemed as non-compliant?

Whilst Amergin have taken pride in supporting the highest quality of businesses as they complete their own application forms, we too question the workload of the assessing officers, the training (or lack of) they receive to understand the legislation and requirements of a home care provider, and the lack of support given to new providers when first starting out.

Some of the more positive and poignant statements that were made over the week however were from the four (4) Personal Care Workers who provided evidence. Whilst they raised concerns about their wages, training and risk management; they were able to articulate to the Commissioner how much they value their work and the genuine reasons why they want to make their clients lives better. The evidence provided insight in to the importance of an often underpaid and underappreciated group of staff within aged care organisations and left a glimmer of hope in us all.

 

Advice for providers moving forward

As each hearing draws to a close do not be mistaken for thinking you can breathe a sigh of relief just yet. There is benefit in continuously reviewing your submission in an objective way to look for any areas that may be of concern to the Royal Commission and commence preparing for it now.

Prepare a response in advance if you feel historic compliance issues may be revisited regardless of their severity/significance, and don’t be afraid to take a fresh look at your organisation as a whole…a critical look.

The next hearings are set for 6 May 2019 and will run for two weeks in Sydney. They will focus on residential care, and in particular the needs of people living with dementia.

For the full interview transcripts and witness details, visit the Departments Royal Commission website.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

Two Birdz success in private/brokerage care in Victoria

This month Amergin are sharing a success story, with a feathered twist.

Jacinta Psaila and Gina Mifsud formed Two Birdz in 2018, with a passion and genuine desire to provide Planned Activity Group services to the elderly and those with a disability.

Starting your own business is not an easy feat and comes with a multitude of challenges, however the positive outlook and enthusiasm Gina and Jacinta have both embraced every bump in the road with is a testament to the dedication they have towards helping people, and building a business that strives for more than just quality.

Jacinta and Gina believe that ‘Happiness Improves Your Quality of Life’, and they want to create a place where clients can come together and enjoy their life through meaningful activities, and not feel like ‘just another number’.

Through working with Amergin, Jacinta and Gina were open to learning more about the varied support and business models available to best suit the care they wanted to provide.

Breaking down the fear barrier whilst making strategic business decisions was something the Amergin team supported them with, and has led to exciting and positive outcomes for their business and their clients.

Over a period of only 6-8 weeks Two Birdz have been able to secure a commercial office space to host their centre-based activities, host their first activity group in the community and commenced brokerage partnerships with a well-known NDIS provider in Victoria. Their client base is expanding with regular repeating clientele and services expanding from aged care to disability group activities also.

Jacinta and Gina valued that Amergin believed in their vision and explain that Amergin “have been with us every step of the way with guidance and support”. “We highly recommend Amergin to anyone who has a dream to make a difference in the community. We certainly wouldn’t be where we are today and are very grateful and thank them so much” – Jacinta and Gina, Two Birdz.

Whilst the Private/Brokerage community care sector is a competitive marketplace, the ability to become an approved Home Care provider is becoming increasingly challenging. The increasing success of Two Birdz business provides reassurance that an alternative model away from relying on Government funding can be equally as successful, if not more rewarding.

At Amergin we invest in the working relationships we build with all businesses we support and encourage the sharing of not only successes but also challenges everyone can learn from.

We wish Two Birdz continued success and hope they feel as proud as a peacock with all they have accomplished so far.

Amergin Senior Consultant Aynsley Johnson with Gina (L) and Jacinta (R) from Two Birdz, Vic.

Amergin NDIS & Aged Care: What We Can Expect From 2019

We would like to welcome back our valued clients, friends and partners to another year that promises much excitement and change.

Taking a quick look back to 2018, it’s not hard to see why many organisations in the community sector are drawing a line in the sand and hoping 2019 will bring more favourable winds to push their ships towards better certainty and success. So, what can we expect in the next 12 months?

Well, even with a new disability system still in its infancy and an aged care sector at the centre of a Royal Commission, the light is starting to show at the end of the tunnel. How, you say?

Just like a bushfire can wipe out everything in single day, when you visit the same place a few months’ later, you’ll see regeneration; animals returning; and whole new ecosystems developing. Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about…

NDIS

There are two major signs that this monumental disability reform that began rolling out in 2016 is finally starting to lose its training wheels as it heads towards a self-regulated marketplace beyond 2020:

  1. The participants and providers themselves are starting to get it – how it works; where the opportunities are; what still needs work; and very importantly, that you can’t go into business and survive in this industry without having a solid foundation. These two groups are the foundation of the system, which means the government needs to keep helping them to more easily navigate the system.
  2. The new ‘parent’ for service providers, called the NDIS Commission (currently overseeing South Australia and New South Wales) is responsible for bringing the other states under the same roof. With Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the ACT and the Northern Territory all about to make the same transition from 1 July, 2019, the Commission will have the oversight and control to guide the market where it needs to go.

Aged Care

Yes, the Royal Commission began in January 2019 and, let’s face it, we already know what’s coming. It won’t be pretty and will almost certainly hang a curtain of shame over Australia for years to come. This year we will see the true extent of what’s happened and how we have failed a generation of our most experienced, respected, knowledgeable, longest-living residents of this great country.

However, with failure comes learning. When the last ember has burnt, we know regeneration will follow. Maybe not tomorrow or the next day – but soon. This is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the past then recreate the future we want.

So, what’s Amergin’s focus for 2019? Quite simply, we want to continue doing what we’ve been doing since the beginning – help every organisation across the community sector be their very best, no matter how unpredictable the environment they operate in.

Our approach is very much about helping you understand so you know why it’s important (versus ‘here are the answers to the exam questions’). And this is important if you want to establish (and maintain) a strong foundation for the future. With innovative services like amerginhub transforming the landscape, we are making this a reality of every organisation operating across the country; and there’s much more to come.

We look forward to continuing our journey with you over the next 12-months and helping you take your organisation to the next level – wherever you are on your journey.

The Importance of Compliance … in GIFs

When was the last time you reviewed your Policies and Procedures… or even looked at them? Do you even have them?!

Cue the excuses: ‘I have a business to run!’ ‘I don’t have time!’ ‘We’re trying to deliver good quality services, not get bogged down in onerous paperwork!’ ‘It’s just too hard!’.

…Throw any excuse my way and I can guarantee I’ve heard it.

Unfortunately, excuses won’t protect you from the repercussions of a client being seriously harmed, a staff member being badly injured while on the job, a major privacy breach, financial fraud – or just straight out closure.

If you’re in this business to make a difference and want to be here for the long term, you have no choice but to keep up with your compliance requirements. It’s a responsibility you owe to your business, your staff, and most importantly, your clients. And it will make you a better provider, which can only be good for business.

Your Policies and Procedures and the checks and balances you use to make sure you adhere to them make up your Quality Management System – or QMS. As the name suggests, a QMS is the foundation of how you run a quality and safe business. And it doesn’t just cover NDIS or Aged Care legislation, it’s about managing every aspect of your business and how it operates. Because of this scope, your QMS should be reviewed and updated regularly, based on changes in industry and (local, state and federal) legislative requirements. It’s a BIG deal.

So, if you haven’t looked at your QMS lately, pull it down from the top shelf and dust it off, or hit Ctrl+F on the laptop. Put the time – and resources – into checking for updates frequently. They’ll quickly add up. Waiting until a few weeks before you’re audited – or better yet, waiting until your audit – then panicking that you’re not prepared, is no fun for anyone.

And trust me, you don’t want to find out at audit – or even worse, through a serious incident – that you’re not across your responsibilities.

There are a range of ways you can keep on top of changes in your compliance requirements, including subscribing to:

  • Federal and State legislation updates;
  • the NDIS newsletter;
  • NDIS Commission updates;
  • Department of Health updates;
  • State Government Department disability and/or aged care updates;
  • the Aged Care Quality Agency newsletter;
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman newsletter; and
  • State work health and safety updates.

Of course, amerginhub provides all this and more in one place. But, you also have to implement the changes.

Luckily, we can help you with that too. Just give us more than a week’s notice.

So, what are you waiting for?

Aged Care Package Boost, Introduction of Quality and Safety Committee and Royal Commission update

Amergin Aged Care Services

December 2018 saw a boost of positivity towards the Aged Care sector with the Australian Government announcing an investment of $287 million dollars in order to provide an additional 10,000 Home Care Packages.

This funding is expected to increase the number of Level 3 and Level 4 high care packages to become available from Dec/Jan through to June 2019. It is also hoped that this will alleviate some of the pressure of the current wait list and boost the support available to those currently in receipt of Level 1 and 2 Packages waiting for higher care.


The new Aged Care Quality and Safety Committee have commenced operations as of 1 January 2019 to replace the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency and the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

Their role is to protect and enhance the safety, health, well-being and quality of life of clients receiving aged care. Through independent accreditation, assessments and monitoring aged care services (subsidised by the Australian Government) they aim to promote high quality care and services to safeguard clients receiving funded care.

Through engagement with and education for consumers and providers, they will work to ensure trust, empowerment and compliance with the quality standards. This is also promoted by the focus of the government to combine the auditing and complains management functionalities to support better engagement with consumers and providers and promote transparency.

It is also important to note that from 1 January 2020 the aged care provider applications and compliance functions will transfer across from the Department of Health to the new quality and safety committee.


Australia’s Aged Care Royal Commission has commenced its first Public Sitting on 19th January, to hear Commissioner Briggs’ and Tracey’s initial thoughts on how the Commission will operate.

Statements were also heard from Senior Council members on the future of the inquiry, and initial responses from the 83 largest Aged Care Providers asked to detail information about their services late December 2018.

The Royal Commission process initially commenced with 100 large aged care providers (residential and aged care) in Australia being asked to answer questions about how they treat their residents/clients, the quality of care they provide and any significant issues that have been raised as concerns over the past 5 years.

Patterns have already been noted in relation to residential care concerns, elder abuse, mismanagement of medication, issues of food safety and overuse of psychotropic medications and will be investigated further as part of the commission.

The Commissions first significant hearing will be on 11th February and public hearings, together with roundtable and community consultations will continue across each State and Territory through 2019, into 2020.

Why ‘Generic’ Policies and Procedures Will Not Cut It

If you have, or are considering, purchasing standardised policies and procedures for your organisation, it is unlikely you will pass government certification (audit). Here are three reasons why:

  1. The ‘cookie cutter’ approach

Policies and procedures must reflect the individuality of the organisation’s they govern; and every organisation is fundamentally different, whether it be the types of services you offer, the way you offer them or even where you offer them. These documents form the fundamental basis of how you operate and for your staff to be able to follow them they need to be tailored and relevant to how you actually operate.

  1. Government legislative changes

State and Federal governments continually review and update legislation to serve an ever-changing Australian society. In 2018 alone, the Victorian State Government has passed at least four major legislation changes (related to disability services). Each of these changes have considerably impacted the State Government’s minimum requirements with respect to NDIS policies and procedures.

  1. Responsibilities

It’s not enough to set out a policy and process. Your Policies and Procedures must clearly set out lines of reporting and who is responsible for what action in any given circumstance. This is incredibly important when dealing with high risk matters such as critical incidents. It also needs to be clear for any client or other stakeholder reading them, who in the organisation they can contact regarding particular matters.

While not many organisations look forward to an audit, they play a crucial role for the regulating body (the Government) – providing transparency on how a business operates, ensuring they are delivering services appropriately and ethically; and, the service provider – to guide their operations and help them identify gaps so they can improve their service delivery in accordance with a broader understanding of ‘best practice’.

In industries like aged care and disability services (the NDIS), providers are dealing with vulnerable people. Audits ensure that you, the service provider, are best equipped to deliver your services, mitigate risks, and improve your services to help you thrive.

Our team invests many hours keeping up-to-date with the state and government legislation that has the potential to impact your organisation. We continue to work alongside auditing bodies to further understand provider compliance requirements and importantly, make sure your documentation is well-received by auditors and meets all compliance expectations.

We know it can be time consuming and costly investing in tailored policies and procedures to govern your organisation. However, also consider the cost and delay of having to pay for them twice because the first ones weren’t adequate…

To find out more about your compliance requirements and getting support in your business, join amerginhub free!

The New Aged Care Quality Standards

Since the 2015-2016 Australian Government Budget announcement, aged care providers across Australia have awaited the much-anticipated single set of Aged Care Quality Standards.

As many providers will be aware, the new single set of standards will move away from the Government’s current approach being provider compliance-focused, towards a consolidated and client-focused ‘single’ set of Standards.

The new Standards apply nationally and replace the four-existing program-specific Standards, which are the:

  1. Accreditation Standards;
  2. Home Care Standards;
  3. Transition Care Standards; and
  4. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program Quality Framework Standards.

In the lead up to the release, significant consultation took place, with trials of the new Standards conducted with both providers and focus groups comprised of clients and carers, further cementing the emphasis towards clients and their carers being in control of the quality of care they receive.

We’re please to say the Quality Agency have announced access to view the new Home Care Quality Standards as of 1st July 2018 (currently awaiting parliamentary approval).

Providers delivering residential care, home care, flexible care and services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program will be assessed against the new Aged Care Quality Standards from 1 July 2019.

This gives providers 12 months to understand, incorporate and deliver services across the 8 new standards.

To help you plan and prepare to transition to the new standards (and access our simple timeline), join amerginhub – our new innovative provider support platform.

Launching Australia’s most ’empowerful’ provider support platform

Today, we launch amerginhub – an online support platform that will change the way you think and operate.

With increasing demands placed on NDIS and Aged Care providers, it’s becoming harder to not only operate a quality care service but also manage the additional layers needed to be competitive, viable and compliant in the long-term. amerginhub opens the door to a growing community of like-minded providers who share the same challenges, while also bringing together essential tools, information and resources to help you more effectively run your organisation.

By working in-line with your organisation’s specific requirements, you’ll be part of a true business partnership that delivers instant access to a wide range of support services, all within a supportive environment.

BENEFITS

  • Collaborate with like-minded organisations and be part of a community who understand and supports you.
  • Save time and money on support staff and resource development.
  • Access best practice training modules and industry-specific education tools.
  • Book one of our specialist team for organisation readiness support or onsite audit preparation.
  • Get complete NDIS and Aged Care Registration Support from start-to-finish.
  • Stay informed with state and federal updates.
  • Always be compliant with our innovative policy and procedures manual update service.
  • Take advantage of exclusive industry partnership offers.

 

Whether you’re a new provider or established organisation, you can join the amerginhub community FREE by clicking here

New Aged Care Expert Joins Amergin

As Amergin continues its mission to meet the growing demand for support services from organisations across the community sector, we are making sure that those who join our Team not only bring the relevant expertise, but also the right approach – this means the positive culture we create in Amergin will directly benefit clients.

Our newest Team Member, Aynsley Johnson is no exception. Aynsley joins us as Senior Consultant, leading our Aged Care services among other roles.

Aynsley has worked within the government, not-for-profit and private community care industry for over 12 years. Over the past 6 years, she has specialised in her area of interest – Aged Care, working directly with clients on Home Care Packages, Community Home Support Program funding and Team Leadership/Management of Aged Care Programs.

With a passion for helping people and a strong sense of social justice, Aynsley commits to supporting Amergin clients to achieve the best outcomes for their business and in turn the best care for aged care consumers. Given the recent 2018 Budget Announcement committing 1.6b over the next 4 years to in-home care services, we expect Aynsley will be very busy helping providers with registration, compliance and advice.

2018 Federal Budget: What it means for Aged Care and NDIS Providers

As the Australian public continue to digest the impact from the Federal Government’s 2018 Budget Announcement, the overall implications for the disability sector (National Disability Insurance Scheme or NDIS) and aged care sector appear to be quite positive – for providers and participants alike. We’ve tried to cover some key areas that service providers should be aware of.


Aged Care

The Aged Care sector, in particular, will receive a huge financial boost to manage Australia’s ageing population and ever-increasing demand for in-home care services. There is still scepticism as to whether this commitment is only scratching the surface when thinking about the real demands on the sector in the future.

Increased demand for in-home care services

The budget provides $1.6 billion over four years for 14,000 people to stay in their homes rather than nursing homes. The funding boost means close to 74,000 people will be able to access home care packages by mid-2022.

Increased demand for mental health services

For those who are in a nursing home, the Government is promising $83 million to address the drastic shortage of mental health services in residential aged care facilities.

Improving the quality of providers and standard of care they deliver

  • The Government will establish an independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in January 2019, bringing together the functions of the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner. This measure is aimed at holding providers more accountable and empowering Australians who use their services.
  • Just over $250m has been allocated to helping to safeguard rights and protect people from abuse.
  • $50m has been allocated to help providers meet new standards.

Access to services by Australia’s Indigenous people

A commitment of over $105m to improve access to aged care facilities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote communities.


NDIS

The main piece of positive news for the NDIS was more related to the Federal Government’s funding commitment and provides real confidence for disability advocates. It is however still hard to ignore the long-term challenge facing the Scheme where Government services and supports are struggling to keep up due to the fast pace of its rollout. 

Guaranteed funding

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Budget Announcement, there was significant concern from disability advocates that the scrapping of proposed 0.5 per cent Medicare levy rise to fully fund the NDIS – from last year’s federal budget – was now no longer necessary due to an improved fiscal position. They can now breathe a sigh of relief with Treasurer Scott Morrison announcing in his federal budget speech that the NDIS would be fully funded now and into the future -the NDIS is on track to be fully rolled out by 2020, with 140,000 Aussies now accessing the scheme.

Support services for NDIS Providers

As the NDIS readies itself to transition to a national regulatory framework (NDIS Quality and Safeguards Framework) from 1 July 2018, there were no signs in the Federal Budget of efforts to increase support services and for both providers (and participants). The ever-growing frustration when people call the NDIS’s 1800 number in addition to the lack of communication (particularly through the www.ndis.gov.au website) is frustrating at best.

Increasing the NDIS workforce

An extra $92.1 million will support people who aren’t yet eligible but are transitioning towards the NDIS, and a jobs fund will be launched with an additional $64m to add more NDIS support workers.

 

What are your thoughts on the 2018 Federal Budget for service providers?