Big spending on the Maggie Beer Foundation serves up disappointing outcomes

Published on 16 May 2024 (Last updated on 22 May 2024)

Concerns have been raised over the Maggie Beer Foundation’s alleged impact on aged care in a recent industry webinar with the Department of Health and Aged Care’s Ingrid Leonard, Assistant Secretary Choice & Transparency, brought to attention over provider issues.

Ms Leonard also dug into the features of the new-look Food and Nutrition Quality Standard during the Food, Nutrition and Dining and Aged Care Reform webinar.

A comprehensive focus on Food and Nutrition

Food and nutrition’s importance has been significantly enhanced under the strengthened Aged Care Quality Standards which are set to be introduced alongside the new Aged Care Act in early-to-mid 2025. 

Previously, food and nutrition was essentially a footnote, now it has a dedicated standard. 

“Standard 6 sets out the key areas that must be achieved to ensure the individual receives quality food and drinks that meet their well-being and care needs,” Ms Leonard explained.

“A key area in the Standard is partnering with older people to improve the quality of food services in residential aged care. As outlined in the draft guidance this should include representation of older people […] by regularly asking older people what they think of their meals.”

“The requirement also embeds a continuous improvement element. Improvements to food and services should be made in response to older people’s feedback, data on intake of food and drinks, indicators such as unplanned weight loss and contemporary evidence-based practice regarding food and drink.”

The Food and nutrition Standard features four outcomes intended as the enforceable element once legislated. This includes ‘Partnering with older people on food and nutrition’, ‘Assessment of nutritional needs and preferences’, ‘Provision of food and drink’ and ‘Dining experience’. 

“The draft guidance issued by the Commission highlights that management should think about how to ensure the dining experience maximises engagement and enjoyment and consider how they demonstrate that they have sufficient staff to support older people to eat and drink and have the appropriate qualifications to make sure the food is prepared safely,” Ms Leonard added. 

“It’s important to consider whether modified cutlery or contrasting colour utensils and plates for older people with dementia and other cognitive limitations might be required and workers could think about what to do with residents who request meals in their room and how to respond to complaints about food.”

The Department is currently focused on implementing the new Standards with the new Aged Care Act and minimal changes are expected. 

Hello leaders highlighted other key changes coming to food and nutrition as shared earlier in the webinar by the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s Jessica Zilujko.

Maggie Beer concerns raised by industry leaders

Ms Leonard also covered the Maggie Beer Foundation’s work in education and training for food and nutrition. She said this free training has seen a positive uptake across several online learning modules, a Trainer Mentor Program, community engagement events and State and Territory training Hubs.

The online learning modules have seen nearly 200 participants take part in modules covering topics of texture-modified food, regeneration of chilled food and supporting hydration. Upcoming modules to be released are cooking in the community, dementia and First Nations nutrition.

“In developing these activities the Foundation has engaged with a broad range of multidisciplinary experts including accredited practising dieticians and speech pathologists. This was particularly important to the department and the foundation to ensure that this package has a strong evidence base and nutritional rigour,” she added.

However, during the webinar’s Q&A session, concerns were raised about the true impact of the Maggie Beer Foundation’s online modules. The Foundation has received $5 million in Government funding in recent years.

Participant feedback suggests there is a disconnection between content produced in the online videos and its relevance to a residential care setting. This has reportedly resulted in many chefs or cooks not completing the online modules after the first session.

Ms Leonard did not provide a detailed response – she asked to follow up offline – and acknowledged the importance of feedback. 

“It’s important for me to be able to hear that so we can look to address [it]. I want the best outcomes out of these training elements the Maggie Beer Foundation is offering this sector and if they’re not necessarily hitting the mark I would be grateful to understand [why] and unpick that a little bit more,” she said.

Hello leaders has since learned several conversations have taken place between relevant parties. We can also confirm issues have only been raised regarding the Maggie Beer Foundation’s online modules and not the other services such as the Trainer Mentor Program or State and Territory Hubs.

Have you experienced any issues with the Maggie Beer Foundation’s modules? Or do you believe they are a valuable resource? Share your insights via [email protected].

aged care reform
aged care quality standards
food and nutrition
dining experience
quality standards
aged care food
lantern alliance
Maggie Beer Foundation