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The Australian Government’s Residential Aged Care Program

Residential aged care providers are approved, regulated and recurrently funded under the AC Act and are bound by the provisions of the AC Act and the Principles. Under the legislation, approved providers have certain responsibilities. These responsibilities relate to:

  • the quality of the care they provide;
  • compliance with, and respect for, the rights of residents; and
  • accountability for the care that is provided, and the basic suitability of their key personnel (ss 3–4, ch 4 AC Act).

High level care (nursing homes)

Services providing high level residential care (formerly nursing homes) provide eligible people with accommodation, nursing and personal care. Accommodation will be a single or shared room. The room may have an ensuite or residents may need to use communal bathrooms. Other areas (e.g. lounges and dining rooms) are for communal use.

Low level care (hostels)

Services providing low level residential care (formerly hostels) provide eligible people with accommodation and personal care. Low care services are for people who require some help, for example, with bathing, dressing, medications and meals, but who do not require nursing care. Accommodation is often a single bedroom with ensuite. Other areas (e.g. lounges and dining rooms) are for communal use.

Low care residential services may also offer “ageing in place”. This means that when a low care resident’s care needs increase and they need high level care, the resident continues to live in the same residential care service. They must be offered all the high care services that they need to ensure that their care needs are met. (See Specified care and services for residential care services, schedule 1, Quality of Care Principles 1997 (Cth) (“Quality of Care Principles”) and also “Specified care and services“, below.)

Even if a low care residential service does not offer “ageing in place”, it needs to be able to offer high level care on at least a short-term basis to those residents whose care needs increase and who are waiting to move to a high care residential service.

Extra service

Some residential care services offer “extra service” places (low care and/or high care). The entire service, or a distinct part of it, may offer these places. Residents occupying “extra service” places receive services in addition to the minimum services required by the AC Act. The extra services generally include a significantly higher standard of accommodation, furnishings, food and activities. It does not mean that a higher standard of care is provided, as all residential care services must meet the care standards set out in the Quality of Care Principles.

Residents occupying an extra service place may be charged an additional daily amount called an “extra service amount” (pt 2.5 AC Act; Extra Service Principles 1997 (“Extra Service Principles”)). They may also be asked to pay an accommodation bond (see “Extra service amount“ and “Accommodation bond“, below).

Respite care

Respite care is short-term, high or low level residential care provided to an eligible person to give a carer or a care recipient a break from their usual care arrangements.

Respite care places are also regulated and recurrently funded under the AC Act.

The maximum number of days that a person can receive respite care in any financial year is 63. However, this may be increased one or more times by a further 21 days depending on the severity of the care recipient’s condition, carer stress or the absence of the carer (s 21.18 Residential Care Subsidy Principles 1997 (“Residential Care Subsidy Principles”)).

The Australian Government’s Residential Aged Care Program :: Last updated: Sun Jun 30th 2013