The network of nine state-based agencies that provide advocacy to older people receiving or seeking aged care has been appointed to run the commonwealth’s new national program.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network will receive $25.7 million over three years to deliver the National Aged Care Advocacy Program from 1 July under a new national framework, Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced on Tuesday.
The Federal Government confirmed a single program and framework would replace the previous NACAP model, where services were delivered by a different organisation in each state and the ACT and two in the Northern Territory, when it released the findings into its review of aged care advocacy in March 2016.
Since then it has twice extended funding to the program and in February it released an updated draft national framework and opened the funding round to deliver the new single service.
The nine OPAN member organisations signed an agreement in August last year to formalise their network and strengthen cooperation between the services.
OPAN acting executive officer Fiona May said the network had been both hoping to secure and working towards the new program for some time.
The new national approach enables the delivery of a more joined up and nationally consistent service with better access mechanisms, she said.
“Advocacy will still be focused on the quality of aged care services that people receive, making sure that people understand and can access their rights when they are both seeking to access aged care services and when they are already consumers of aged care services,” Ms May told Australian Ageing Agenda.
The funding allows OPAN to increase its regional presence from 21 existing sites to 28 over the next two years, expand the range and delivery of education services in all Australian states and territories and deliver new education to the most regional and remote parts of Australia, it said.
Ms May said its top priority was the further development of its new website to provide more information online and in new ways, such as information packs and webinars, to better support older people and their families.
Aged care resources
The development of national online training resources for aged care staff with alternative formats for remote areas where web access is poor are among OPAN’s other priority initiatives, Ms May said.
“Staff from aged care facilities wherever they are in Australia will be able to access that training at a time and in a way that suits them,” Ms May said.
It means that staff will no longer have to wait for a NACAP provider to visit the facility and provide the education on residents’ rights, and materials could also be built into a facility’s induction processes, she said.
Ms May said this new agreement provided additional funding to the NACAP program, which was an exciting opportunity to reach more older Australians in need of advocacy in the community.
The introduction of a new NACAP has been welcomed by consumer and provider groups.
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said information and support for older Australians to enable them to exercise their rights and get the best out of the aged care system was crucial.
“This is now a genuinely national program that should in the near future see better outcomes for aged care consumers everywhere across Australia,” Mr Yates said.
Similarly, Aged & Community Services Australia has welcomed the announcement.
“Advocacy services exist to provide vital support and advice to our clients and residents, and positive engagement between these services and aged care providers is crucial,” ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said.
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