Submission to the Department of Health on the Consultation on the draft Charter of Aged Care Rights

COTA Australia welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the consultation on the draft Charter of Aged Care Rights (the Charter). We are pleased to see that the Charter has a strong focus on consumers and care recipients within aged care and maintains the existing rights of consumers under the current charters.

In the development of this submission we have promoted the consultation to older Australians so that Government can directly hear their views through the Consultation Hub. We also sought input from State and Territory COTAs, their policy councils and officers, and their members, on the specific questions outlined in the online consultation.

COTA broadly supports the consolidation of the existing four Charters of Rights into a single Charter of Aged Care Rights, and the legislated component of the Charter of Consumer Rights. In principle, COTA supports the simple, direct and succinct approach of the draft Charter of Rights. However, COTA is concerned about a number of key themes relating to how the draft Charter would operate including:

  1. How rights contained within other legislation referred to in the preamble may still be used by aged care regulatory processes, particularly when considering individual complaints by consumers. Therefore, we caution against the removal of specific rights on the basis that other law protects them without some mechanism to codify such rights within the aged care regulatory framework so that related measures can be considered during complaints (and other regulatory) processes.
  2. How the lack of specificity or detailed articulation of key aspects could lead to various interpretations of the Consumer Rights by different individuals or providers. In this submission COTA has taken the approach of providing suggested amendments to the Charter of Consumer Rights. Potentially many of these issues could be resolved by an accompanying Handbook or Guide to the Charter of Consumer Rights, elaborating how the Department intends its subordinate legislation to be interpreted by both consumers and providers. However, such an approach would need to have a high degree of confidence that the interpretation would be enforceable.
  3. If it is proposed that the Charter of Aged Care Rights continues to be a poster that must be displayed in all residential aged care facilities (which we support) COTA strongly suggests that the proposal includes the requirement for the Charter to be displayed next to a poster that articulates the eight consumer outcome statements from the new Aged Care Quality Standards. Only when these two posters or documents are read together can the full suite of protections be understood by consumers. We discuss this further in our response.

In addition, COTA Australia notes its deep concern that the Charter only applies to consumers once services commence. Given long waiting times for home care and the critical role of assessment teams, COTA believes that the rights afforded to consumers under the Charter should apply equally to registration, screening, assessment and all other stages of the aged care journey before services commence. Importantly, it must be made clear that the protection of the Charter of Aged Care Rights extends to consumers as potential clients through the process of seeking information and discussing options with potential providers, prior to receiving services. This should include the proposed new rights around consumers accessing and receiving information to enable them to make an informed choice about their provider.

COTA welcomes the opportunity to provide this submission and will be happy to discuss the matters raised with the Department at its convenience.