Religious rights and freedom of speech have been stripped from a watered-down “charter of rights’’ for elderly Australians in nursing homes.
Religious rights and freedom of speech have been stripped from a watered-down “charter of rights’’ for elderly Australians in nursing homes.

Elderly rights that won’t be protected

RELIGIOUS rights and freedom of speech have been stripped from a watered-down "charter of rights'' for elderly Australians in nursing homes.

The right to safe, high-quality care and to "live without abuse and neglect'' are prioritised in the new draft charter, released by federal Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt today in response to a series of aged-care scandals.

Download the proposed charter (PDF)

Nursing home residents will have 12 rights - including the right to receive safe and high-quality care services, and be treated with dignity and respect.

The new charter gives residents the right to complain without retribution, to maintain independence and to have control over their care and social lives.

Residents also have the right to be listened to and understood, and have their identity, culture and diversity valued and supported.

But the charter contains a large loophole, stating that "sometimes aged-care providers may have to balance competing rights''.

"Providers will work to resolve these situations sensitively through consultation, and with the spirit of the charter in mind,'' it states.

The Federal Government is seeking public comment on the new charter, to take force from July next year.

The new charter removes several rights outlined in the existing 21-point charter for nursing homes, including the right to freedom of speech and to practise religion or speak a different language without discrimination.

 

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt
Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt

 

It also scraps the right for aged-care residents to "accept personal responsibility for his or her own actions and choices, even though these may involve an element of risk''.

The new 12-point charter states that the rights for aged care "sit alongside other laws'' covering anti-discrimination and consumer rights, which cover religion and freedom of speech.

Mr Wyatt said he expected that nursing homes and residents would sign the new charter of rights.

"Having a shared understanding between people receiving care and aged-care providers helps everyone to work together to achieve safe, high-quality aged care,'' he said yesterday.

But Aged Care Crisis founder Lynda Saltarelli slammed the charter as "feel-good window dressing''.

"The charter of rights is unenforceable,'' she said.

"If the Minister is serious about protecting residents' rights he could start by ensuring there are enough skilled staff to look after residents in aged care, as well as forcing aged-care facilities to publish their staffing levels.''

A federal parliamentary inquiry will examine a Private Member's Bill from Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, who wants to mandate staffing levels in nursing homes.

Three federal parliamentary committees are already probing aged care quality and funding issues.

A spokesman for Mr Wyatt said the Aged Care Act required nursing homes to "act in a way which is consistent with any rights and responsibilities of care recipients."

"If a provider is not meeting its legislative obligations, the Department of Health may take regulatory action, including imposing sanctions," he said.



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