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Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to be introduced in January 2016

By Julie McStay29 Oct 2015

Responsibility for the Aged Care Complaints Scheme is set to transfer from the Secretary of the Department of Social Services to the Aged Care Commissioner next year, giving effect to a 2015 budget measure.

At present, the Aged Care Commissioner’s primary role is to examine complaints against the Complaints Scheme and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency, however the Commissioner does not directly examine complaints about aged care or services.

Changes to occur

Legislation is due to commence on 1 January 2016 that will amend the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) and Principles to expand the functions of the Aged Care Commissioner. Under the new title ‘Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’, the Commissioner will become responsible for examining complaints about aged care or services and aged care providers.

This change in functions will separate the handling of complaints from the Department’s regulatory and funding roles. This will see a more independent approach to complaints handling by the Commissioner who is an independent office holder appointed by the Minster and independent of the Department. The new system flags a move to a better practice model providing for clear separation of the responsibilities of Aged Care regulatory bodies as set out in the table below.

Aged Care body Responsibility
The Department Funding, policy and compliance
The Quality Agency Accreditation and review
Complaints Scheme Complaints

Action required

At this stage, the Complaints Scheme continues to receive complaints regarding aged care and services and these functions will remain in place until the legislation commences.

From an approved provider’s perspective, the fact that complaints will be handled by an independent Commissioner appears to be a positive move, however time will tell whether the system results in complaints being resolved in a more efficient and transparent manner. We will update you closer to January 2016 with any changes to resident agreements or policies that may be necessary when the new role takes effect.