Residential aged care facilities report to government on food and nutrition, providers still lagging

By Melissa Coade

March 29, 2022

Richard Colbeck
Aged care services minister Richard Colbeck. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The government has revealed a breakdown on providers’ daily spend for residential aged care meals has ‘increased significantly’ per person but some facilities continue to fall short.

From July to December last year, more than $12 on average was spent on meals for residents of aged care facilities – this was effectively double the daily amount reported in a 2017 study that was considered by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

However, the new data also showed that less than 2% of providers spent less than $6 per resident per day despite the additional funding. 

Compulsory reporting on food and nutrition in residential aged care facilities was introduced last year, when a daily supplement of $10 per aged care resident from the government required providers to share data with the Department of Health. 

In a statement, senior Australians and aged care services minister Richard Colbeck said nutritious and appetising food was a basic right for residents. 

“Providers have a responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of residents – but also that this funding is being used appropriately.

“While providing appropriate food for some residents can be challenging, it is a fundamental responsibility of aged care providers and a right of all aged care residents,” Colbeck said. 

By the end of December 2021, the government had distributed approximately $350 million to improve the delivery of care and services in national facilities, including the standard of food and nutrition to aged care residents.

Facilities had to report to the department quarterly to continue receiving the Basic Daily Fee supplement for meals (which was in addition to an existing basic daily fee supplement) via the My Aged Care portal. The food practices reporting system was developed in consultation with dieticians, nutrition experts and sector representatives, and also collects data on oral health and meal preparation.

The minister said in the first quarter for all 2,600 facilities that self-reported, the average daily spend in each resident was approximately $13.94. That spend increased to $14.27 in the second quarter. 

For ‘onsite only’ expenditure on food and ingredients, 75% of services that participated reported spending $12.25 daily per person, with a slight increase by 19 cents in the second quarter.

Colbeck said aged care residents deserved more than $10 per day on meals and anything less was ‘no longer a satisfactory outcome’. He added sector leaders needed to drive real change in response to the data findings and the government would be doing more to ensure the food available to aged care residents met the requisite standard. This also extended to other metrics of ‘high quality and safe care’, Colbeck said. 

“The Basic Daily Fee supplement was provided to residential aged care services to improve the delivery of care and services to senior Australians, with a focus on food and nutrition – that is what residents and their families expect.

“While there is no doubt the pandemic has created extra difficulties for all aged care services, these issues are being worked through in collaboration with the sector,” the minister said. 

Other government-led initiatives to left food and nutritional outcomes in aged care include a star-rating list of aged care providers based on consumer experience interviews, with 20% of residents living in aged care facilities; the introduction of a quality indicator system driven by more data collection; and an Aged Care Quality Standards review.

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