Federal Government announces first ACAR in two years – just 2,000 bed licenses on offer

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The sector is in shock. After postponing the long-awaited Aged Care Approvals Rounds (ACAR) from March to at least September this year due to COVID, the Government has finally opened the 2020 round two years after the previous round – with just 2,000 residential care places available that must be ‘shovel-ready’.

In March, the Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck, had previously signed off on 10,000 places – the majority going to Queensland, followed by NSW, WA and Victoria.

But now just 2,000 will go ahead – for the time being.

8,000 beds on hold

Aged Care Minister, Senator Richard Colbeck said the remaining 8,000 places will remain on hold pending the Royal Commission’s Final Report.

“Residential care places can often take over four years to become operational,” he said.

“It is therefore pragmatic to wait for the preferred reform pathway to be in place, before allocating places to projects that take this amount of time.”

Providers will be able to apply from today until 18 March 2021 for:

  • 2,000 residential care places – however, the Department of Health website states that applicants that can show they have ‘bed-ready’ projects that can deliver care immediately or within an 18-month period will be prioritised before longer term proposals.
  • 1,028 short-term restorative care places (STRC)
  • Up to $150 million in capital grants for residential care

The previous ACAR opened in mid-2018 with 13,500 residential aged care places, 775 short-term restorative care places and $60 million in capital grants on offer – representing a 35% increase than the previous round in 2016-17.

The 2020 capital grants are a considerable increase on 2018.

ACAR on the way out post-Royal Commission

But why delay the rollout of new beds after two years of nothing?

Aged care consultant James Underwood (pictured right) tells us that the smaller number of places should not be a surprise given the Royal Commission’s recommendation to end the ACAR process.

He expects the ACAR will be ended once the Government has had time to consider the findings from the Royal Commission’s Final Report to be delivered on 26 February 2021.

“The Government has correctly done what it needs to get projects going that need to get going,” he said.

He says the abridged ACAR will allow those operators that are ready to build to get underway, particularly in Melbourne.

Metropolitan Melbourne was only awarded 23 beds in the 2018-19 ACAR – despite covering four aged care planning regions including Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula – creating pent-up demand for bed licenses.

With occupancy now returning in Melbourne, James says it is good news for operators who are ‘shovel-ready’.

You can find information about how to apply for the 2020 ACAR on the Department of Health’s website here.