Managing aged care complaints

Social isolation Ageing Aged care Australia

This audit assessed the Department of Health and Ageing's implementation and ongoing management of the Aged Care Complaints Scheme and the effectiveness of their complaint management systems in supporting service delivery and regulatory outcomes.

The Australian Government subsidises residential aged care places to assist with the cost of care and accommodation services for eligible older Australians. As at 30 June 2010, there were approximately 183 000 government funded residential places, provided at a cost of $7.3 billion, or approximately $40 000 per recipient. Almost one in four persons aged 85 years and over is in a residential care facility. The importance of residential aged care is increasing rapidly, with the number of persons aged 85 years and over estimated to increase by 120 per cent over the 20 years to 2030.

The Aged Care Act 1997 (the Act) and related legislative instruments (Aged Care Principles) establish the framework for financial support for residential aged care places and regulate the conditions of that support. The Act also specifies a number of objects that relate to the quality, type and level of care to be provided in aged care facilities, and provides for a complaints scheme.

The complaints scheme was introduced as a means to help ensure that providers meet their responsibilities to provide high standards of care to aged care recipients, who can be among the most vulnerable members of society. As with other complaints schemes, effective handling of aged care complaints assists in resolving problems before they become worse, providing a remedy to clients who have suffered disadvantage, and nurturing good relationships between service providers, government agencies and the public. Complaints also provide useful information about potential program weaknesses and service delivery faults.

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