The Aged Care Commission’s creation of ‘Partnerships in Care’ is wrong

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I found out recently that the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission have developed a new thing. They have created it all by themselves. It doesn’t have a statutory basis. It’s called ‘Partnerships in Care’.

It is wrong.

How did I find out about this?

I found out about it through someone who said this today (12 August 2021):

I am located in Vic and have been beside myself with concern at not being able to visit my mum during the numerous and extensive lockdowns we have endured. My mum is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s but is not palliative I lodged numerous complaints with ACQSC about these lockdowns and negotiated with Elder Advocates to receive accounts of my mum’s care, such as fluid chart, food consumed, state of UTI etc. Window and skype visits were of no benefit to my mum. I also need to check on her care myself, due to many issues with ACF in the past. In the last 2 lockdowns, I have been allowed to visit by participating in ”Partnerships in care’. I had to commit to visit and provide care at regular times. Whilst not perfect, I am grateful to be able to visit and feed my mum and check on her care myself.

I was shocked to hear about this.

You might think a ‘partnership in care’ arrangement sounds good. But it’s not. It’s just another way in which the Aged Care Commission is supporting Aged Care Facilities to control, restrict and ban family and supportive relationships of residents. It’s just another way in which the Aged Care Commission is encouraging Aged Care Facilities to break the law.

The ‘Partnerships in Care’ is an unlawful system which goes against the meaning of care.

If you have a look at my post on this website, you will start to recognise that we all take for granted the many ways in which we care for each other, and the many ways we care for the people we love who have had the misfortune to end up in a Facility. The post is: Who decides if you are a carer?

In that post, I make the point that a Facility has no right to question my care of my Mum or my Dad, or your care of your partner, sister or brother.

Indeed, the Victorian Care Facilities Directions even recognise that care includes visiting to prevent social isolation.

Which means that I could move back interstate and start visiting Mum, without a “track record”, and I will be caring for her.

Or I could visit my brother once a month on a trip from the country, and I will be caring for him.

How dare anyone suggest that a third party can make up a definition of “care” and then determine whether I care “enough” to be called a “carer”? – in their eyes?

And how dare a Facility judge my ability to care? As I say in that post, the Facility is in a position of conflict. They have their own interests to consider, and their own interests are not the same as those of my beloved resident. Especially if they don’t look after him or her properly.

So I had a look at this new thing that is not in any legislation, State or Federal, that I can see.

I can’t imagine why the Commission has created this terrible thing. It’s not a good idea to make things like this up when you are a regulator.

The Aged Care Commission has made something up that will confuse everybody, and create injustice.

I don’t know why the Aged Care Commission has decided to make up this Partnerships in Care vehicle, or animal, or whatever you might call it.

They have written a fact sheet about it. Here it is. It was set up in July 2021.

When I train government departments and agencies in administrative law (and I have trained over 70 different departments, agencies or entities in the last few years), I tell them not to overcomplicate things. I tell them to focus on the law. I tell them not to write things just for the sake of it. People will trip over it.

Write less, not more. We aren’t writing novels for people to read. We are supposed to be pointing people to legal rights and obligations.

If the law is clear, then just repeat the law.

If the law is not clear, then do your best to state it anyway.

Why do some people in government think they can recreate law, even when they are not lawmakers?

This is what the Commission has done.

It has tried to create a new system when it doesn’t need to. And in doing so, it is creating unnecessary confusion at best. And gross injustice at worst.

The ‘partnerships in care’ supports providers and breaches the rights of residents and their carers.

I cannot face analysing every line of the ‘fact sheet’ and stating what is wrong with it. Here are just a few of the problems.

Fact sheet problem no 1

The fact sheet says:

Set up a detailed induction process for partners in care and outline expectations while undertaking partnership in care activities.

Really? Is this a joke? Does the Facility have the right to set “expectations” of carers? You’ve got to be kidding.

Fact sheet problem no 2

The fact sheet says:

Develop a process for assessing how a partner in care arrangement may impact other individuals receiving care, and for minimising that impact as appropriate.

I don’t even know what this means. But it sounds like the Facility can decide that my visiting my relative can be restricted if they deem my visits as impacting on others. This sounds very dangerous. And it doesn’t respect the rights of my relative to a visit. Okay, if I am too noisy and I keep other residents awake after 6 pm, then fair enough, ask me to be quiet. But what on earth could this mean? It will be used by Facilities to ban visitors.

Fact sheet problem no 3

The fact sheet says:

Provide a mechanism for feedback from consumers, partners in care and staff, including self-assessment and
continuous improvement.

For crying out loud, haven’t we all got enough to do? I go and visit my loved one. I try to attend to them and keep them company. I complain when I have to (which can be often) about the things the Facility is failing to do.

Now you want the Facility to make me do self-assessment?

Now you want the Facility to demand that I continuously improve?

And what does that mean? Does that mean stop complaining about their inadequacies? …. Or else?….

Last time I looked, there was nothing in the legislation about this. Please don’t make things like this up. It’s confusing. And it’s wrong.

Fact sheet problem no 4

The fact sheet says:

Identify which family members, loved ones, friends or representatives meet the definition of a partner in care.

Well, considering this seems to be a made-up term, it doesn’t have a definition. But what’s the point of it. Are the Facilities being now told by the Commission that they can distinguish between ‘partners in care’ (the ones they deem to recognise) and people they don’t recognise or like? Does this mean the Facilities can ban the latter, and allow the former to visit only under strict conditions?

That’s still against the law.

Dear Aged Care Commission, it’s not regulation when you make up terms that aren’t in the legislation, and try to get people to agree on them.

Fact sheet problem no 5

The fact sheet says:

Document the agreed approach in detail, for example:
– times and days of attendance to support rostering (trying to avoid overly restrictive, inflexible arrangements)
– activities and care roles
– provision of meals and equipment

There it is. The Commission is telling facilities they can make up documents to control (and prevent) care of family members. That’s not right, and it’s not legal.

And don’t even start me on the mention of “risk assessments”. I’ve said it before. You have no power to manage risk unless the law gives you that power.

Aged care residents have rights and freedoms that Facilities have no power to remove.

And Facilities have no power to turn themselves into detention centres at their whim.

Dear Commission, the Facilities are getting so many things wrong, and you know it.

The residents are having their human rights breached day after day, especially when it comes to visits and voluntary care, and you know it.

Please don’t create unlawful and unregulated requirements that put more control in the hands of Providers at the same time as enabling Facilities to justify further breaches of the law.

Visiting rights can’t be negotiated away like this.

I would like to say to the Commission, it would be a lot better if you just regulated properly – by looking at the law and just applying that. Instead of creating more red tape like this.

The Commission’s fact sheets are inconsistent

I have written before about the relatively new fact sheet issued on the Aged Care Commission’s website in July 2021.

It’s called: “Covid-19 Restrictions in Residential Aged Care – Your Rights. A fact sheet for aged care residents, their families and representatives.

That fact sheet contains references to the rights of residents. And the obligations of the Providers. It’s better than a lot of the other information on the website. I don’t entirely agree with it. But it’s got some good material in it.

But if you read the two fact sheets, they are inconsistent. It is a shame that the Commission just keeps writing new fact sheets which are inconsistent with each other. Sometimes it needs to be recognised that opposites can’t both be true. Instead, there should be a clear and lawful position which is consistently applied across various documents.

I love someone who lives in a Facility – what do I do if the Facility makes me sign a ‘Partnerships in Care’ agreement?

My personal opinion is that you shouldn’t sign anything like this. Of course I can’t give legal advice to you in your particular situation, but I have 50 warning bells going off in my head about this “agreed” approach to control your visits. You should use the arguments in this website (ie the law, and common sense) to assert that you are a carer, and you are entitled to visit when it suits you, and you are entitled to do what you want to do, to care for and support your loved one.

It’s not for a Facility to control how and when you care.

Of course, the Facility is entitled to remind you about legal obligations imposed by the State government, like hygiene, social distancing, or masks. But they can’t enter into an “agreement” with you to restrict all of the ways and times in which you may care.

If you decide to sign an agreement like this, watch out. They will use it to unlawfully restrict you yet again. Only this time they won’t just say ‘it’s our policy’, they will say ‘you agreed to it, so suck it up’.

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