Frontline: NDIS and Aged Care news you need to know (4 Nov 2022)

NDIS News

1. Shonky NDIS operators warned

The minister in charge of the NDIS, Bill Shorten, has vowed to track down “shonky” disability providers, telling them to “get off my scheme”.

Mr Shorten told the ABC that some providers were making themselves “NDIS millionaires off the backs of taxpayers and people with disability.”

He said: “The NDIS is doing a lot of good for a lot of people. But in my opinion, there’s been insufficient scrutiny paid on the backdoor of the scheme.”

“The invoices come in, people aren’t checked to see if the services that they’re claiming they deserve to be reimbursed for have actually occurred.”

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission chief Michael Phelan has estimated that up to 15-20 per cent of the NDIS expenditure is rorted.

Disability advocate and Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott echoed Mr Shorten’s comments, saying those who were abusing the scheme can “go and get stuffed”.

2.Sex therapy on the NDIS?

Bill Shorten doesn’t think taxpayers would like the idea the disability scheme financing sex work and has promised a review would probe whether all services are “reasonable and necessary”.

Mr Shorten was grilled on revelations in a Sky News Australia investigation that one woman has been illegally using the NDIS to pay for a male prostitute.

The woman – who can only be named as Stephanie – illegally gets the NDIS to cover her sex work bills as she does not have a formal agreement with the body.

However, after a controversial Federal Court decision in 2020, Australians on the NDIS can legally have their sex work paid for if it forms part of their formal NDIS plan.

Mr Shorten said the overwhelming majority of NDIS recipients were doing the right thing but promised a review would look at all factors of the plan, including burgeoning cost blowouts.

3. NDIS is awesome, says Aussie of the Year

Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott joined Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Mr Shorten in launching a new program called “The Field”, which links job opportunities to people with disabilities – and promptly took aim at critics of the NDIS.

Despite the growing concerns around the scheme, Mr Alcott hit out at the “negative” questions dominating the press conference marking the project’s launch.

“We have had four questions about the NDIS, they have all been negative. I’m starting by saying the NDIS is bloody awesome,” Mr Alcott said.

“One of the things we found out about this report, for kids with early intervention on the NDIS who are under the age of six have double the number of friends compared to kids who weren’t.”

“I had no friends when I was five. I would have loved to have had the NDIS, did you know that? Not really, you don’t really read stories about that do you?”

“You don’t talk about the economic growth of it being involved in things like that. First and foremost, it is awesome, and we need to hear more stories about the good things that are happening.”

Aged Care News

1. SIRS extended to home care

SIRS, the Serious Incident Response Scheme, will be extended to home care and flexible care from December 1st, 2022.

The changes will apply to home care providers and flexible care providers in a home or residential setting. This includes organisations which provide:

  •       Home Care Packages (HCP)
  •       Short-Term Restorative Care at home
  •       The Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)
  •       National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care (NATSIFAC)
  •       Multi-Purpose Services (MPS) Programs
  •       Transition Care Program (TCP) services.

What are the new rules?

The SIRS will largely operate the same way for home care providers as it does for residential providers.

However, the exposure draft and explanatory statement of the new rules released on 31 October 2022 outlined some differences between the SIRS for residential care and home care providers, including:
  • Creating a new category of reportable incident for home care providers when a care recipient goes missing during an approved provider providing home care and where there are reasonable grounds to report that fact to the police
  • Clarifying that conduct that may otherwise amount to neglect is not a reportable incident if it results from a choice made by the care recipient about the care or services that the approved provider is to provide to the care recipient, and where this choice has been communicated by the care recipient to the approved provider and recorded in writing
  • That, in relation to reportable incidents arising from unexpected death, the lack of control and visibility over a consumer’s day-to-day living circumstances is recognised when compared to delivery of care and services in residential settings. This means that for a home care provider an unexpected death is only a reportable incident if the death is a result of care or services provided by the approved provider or a failure of the approved provider to provide care or services.

2. New aged care flu vax reporting rules

Aged care providers are now required to report annually on influenza vaccinations for staff and residents. Reporting for this year closes 30 November 2022.

While the Department of Health and Aged Care introduced the new requirement in January this year, little more was mentioned about it until it appeared in an entry in the Department’s Protecting Older Australians COVID-19 update 28 October 2022.

The following services must complete the annual report with regard to staff only or residents and staff:
  • Residential Aged Care Service – residents and staff
  • Multi-Purpose Services – residents and staff
  • Transition Care Program services delivered in a residential aged care setting – residents and staff
  • Short Term Restorative Care services delivered in residential aged care settings – residents and staff
  • Home Care Package services – staff only.
Providers must report:
  •  the number of residents who have voluntarily informed aged care providers they received an influenza vaccination in 2022
  • the number of staff who have voluntarily informed aged care providers they received an influenza vaccination in 2022
  • the number of staff who have voluntarily informed aged care providers they have not received an influenza vaccination in 2022, including whether they received an exemption from mandatory influenza vaccination requirements that may have been in place in the relevant state or territory.
Staff who work across multiple services need only report against the one Outlet ID, in the same way they would report worker COVID-19 vaccinations. Reporting on exemptions for residents is not required.

Reports are to be made via the online form.

Providers that fail to meet their reporting obligations will be included in a non-reporters list provided to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (Commission). It will then be up to the Commission to consider a range of escalating regulatory actions.

3. Grant Opportunity

The Department of Health and Aged Care has signalled a grant opportunity to be available soon, to support registered and enrolled nurses in residential aged care complete specialist Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) training.

Broader eligibility rules for Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments, Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) are now being applied.

Since November 1st, medical practitioners and nurse practitioners will be able to add Lagevrio® and Paxlovid® to their Prescriber Bag supplies. A complete list of current Prescriber Bag medicines is available on the PBS website.

5. Pay rise for aged care workers is justified

Aged care workers will receive a pay rise of 15 per cent following an interim decision by the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

The FWC has also left the door open for further increases. The timing of the interim increase will be dealt with in Stage 2 of proceedings, which is listed for 22 November 2022.

6. ACCPA concerned over industrial relations bill

Employer groups, including the Aged and Community Care Providers Association, have expressed concern over the Federal Government’s 249-page Secure Jobs, Better Pay Bill recently introduced to Parliament.

They question the timeline for consultation given interested parties need to make their submissions by November 11.

ACCPA says it is currently undertaking “a detailed review of the legislation and plans to consult its members as soon as possible”.

The workplace relations minister, Tony Burke has said that the door is open to amendments as part of the consultation process.

7. Draft provider governance legislation released

As part of the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Act 2022, changes to provider governance and reporting requirements will commence from 1 December 2022.

These changes will apply to Australian Government-funded aged care providers of residential care, home care and flexible care.

To help providers prepare for these changes, the Department has published the exposure draft and explanatory statement of the proposed Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Governance and Reporting for Approved Providers) Principles 2022.

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