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Providers buckle up, pledge to co-operate with royal commission


As Australia’s aged care sector straps itself in for an 18-month royal commission that was ticked off by Governor General Peter Cosgrove this week, providers have pledged to co-operate “fully and transparently to achieve the outcomes we all want”.

Scott Morrison announces terms of reference for royal commission

Greg Hunt (L), Scott Morrison (C) Ken Wyatt (R)

The speed with which Prime Minister Scott Morrison was able to finalise the commission’s terms of reference was remarkable, considering the government had received a tsunami of more than 5,100 submissions since announcing the inquiry less than four weeks ago on September 16.

It’s a reflection of the urgency of the aged care question, both as a pressing social issue and a political hot potato.

While the PM’s announcement was greeted with a general spirit of optimism and co-operation in official statements from stakeholders, an online poll of Australian Ageing Agenda’s readers showed that most people are taking a “wait-and-see” approach to what a royal commission might achieve.

As of Thursday morning, when asked “do you think the royal commission will bring about positive change in the aged care sector” 65 per cent  (137 votes) said they were hopeful it would, but were reserving judgement until it was over.

Nineteen per cent, or 40 voters, said they thought the inquiry would improve the quality of care and make providers more accountable and 17 per cent (35) said it would just delay real reform and achieve nothing.

Welcomed by industry

Peak industry body Aged and Community Services Australia said the royal commission, headed by a West Australian Supreme Court Judge and former Public Service Commissioner, would encourage a wide-ranging and constructive national discussion on the future quality of aged care services.

“It is pleasing to see the terms of reference acknowledge the need to look into all aspects of aged care; issues specific to remote, rural or regional areas; caring for those with chronic or complex health needs like dementia, as well as hearing from younger people with disabilities living in residential care,” ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow said in a statement.

Aged Care Royal Commissioner Lynelle Briggs

Commissioner Lynelle Briggs

Leading Age Services Australia, which represented the face of the aged care industry in the recent bruising ABC Four Corners investigation into aged care, offered its full support to the commissioners.

“This Royal Commission will play a key role in identifying how to make Australia’s aged care system better,” CEO Sean Rooney said.

Anglicare Australia said it would work with the inquiry. “It is clear that the community expects quality aged care. This Royal Commission is our opportunity to answer that call,” executive director Kasy Chambers said.

Catholic Health Australia CEO Suzanne Greenwood said the organisation supported the “high expectations” placed on the commission by the government.

“The government’s pledge to ensure Australians have access to the levels of care and support that each person would expect for themselves is entirely in step with community expectations and is an approach that is applauded by CHA,” she said in a video message.

Consumers optimistic

Consumer groups also expressed optimism after terms of reference were revealed, covering a broad sweep of topics ranging from abuse to workforce issues and the increasing incidence of dementia.

“The commission will cover care for people in aged care facilities, in-home care services and care for young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care,” the acting CEO of National Seniors Australia Professor John McCallum said.

Aged Care Royal Commissioner Joseph McGrath

Commissioner Joseph McGrath

“It will inquire into all forms of Commonwealth-funded aged care, wherever they are delivered.

“This is a comprehensive brief and one that will provide some challenges. But we believe it is achievable.”

COTA Australia said the commission represented a watershed moment in the history of aged care policy and reform.

However COTA’s CEO Ian Yates warned it must not be used as an excuse by the government not to “sit on its hands” and use it as an excuse not to act urgent reforms already identified in a raft of previous reviews including the Tune Review and the Carnell/Paterson Report.

The former head of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce, John Pollaers, expressed concern about the inquiry’s timeframe.

“the public need to know – 2020 is too long to wait,” he tweeted. “@ScottMorrisonMP @billshortenmp are you prepared to close the c$3.5b workforce funding shortfall More Nurses, Holistic Care up from 2.9 to 4.3 hours/day and an end to Home Care waiting lists.”

Lawyers, in the meantime urged providers to start preparing. “The release of the terms of reference reinforces the need to commence preparations now, particularly with regard to records of historical complaints,” Hynes Legal said.

Govt to push ahead with current reforms

Asked by Community Care Review at Tuesday’s media conference whether the royal commission meant the move to a single quality framework and establishment of independent quality regulator would be put on ice during the inquiry, Mr Morrison said the government intended to “push ahead” with all existing reforms.

That appeared to be the case on Wednesday with the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee holding an all-day hearing in Canberra into the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission Bill.

The committee is scheduled to hear evidence from a range of stakeholders including the community legal centres, the AMA, peak industry and consumer bodies the health department and the aged care complaints commissioner.

Commissioners Justice Joseph McGrath and Lynelle Briggs will hand down an interim report next October with a final report due by 30 April 2020. They have been directed to begin the Adelaide-based inquiry “as soon as practicable”.

Do you think the royal commission will make a difference? Vote in the poll on our home page or leave a comment below.

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4 Responses to Providers buckle up, pledge to co-operate with royal commission

  1. val fell October 11, 2018 at 1:32 pm #

    The aged sector of the population should not have to wait 2 or more years for the results of the Royal Commission to be debated, legislated and finally put into practice. Reforms from recent enquiries should be in place asap. Otherwise scenarios like the following will continue– A friend rang me yesterday to say she had received a letter from “My Aged Care” to say her husband’s Level 4 home Care package would be available in the next 3 months.. It will not be needed as her husband has been in a nursing home for the last 15 months!!!

  2. Barry Arnott October 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

    More Aged Care Packages is not the answer, accept an Aged Care Package and social support, personal care and delivered meals are full cost recovery. A level 1 package has about $100 to be spent per week on services and a level 2 package about $140, social support full cost recovery about $100 per day, personal care about $22 per half hour block and delivered meals between $13 to $15 per meal. If you have a level 3 or 4 Home Care Package then it is full cost recovery for everything, Nursing around $100 per hour and Podiatry around $130 per hour.

    What the older members of our communities need is to be able to get the services they need to remain at home at the Commonwealth Home Support Program subsidised rate.

    All the glossy brochures and government spruiking never says that the organisation who manages your package will take about half of it in a variety of management and administration fees.

    The more members of the Aged Community we force onto Aged Care Packages the more people we condemn to become socially isolated and malnourished. Studies undertaken in Australia show the negative impacts of social isolation.

    Don’t provide Aged Care Packages, provide the services the elderly need at a cost they can afford to remain at home and cut out the middle man (Package Provider).

  3. Pam Dawson October 12, 2018 at 4:57 pm #

    Those of us with loved ones in Aged Care Facilities can’t wait 18months/2years for results of Royal Commission. Its well known what needs to be done why have a Royal Commission at great cost, we want action NOW.

  4. Tina October 13, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

    I’ve just entered the age care entry for home care assistance, while wating for a package I reviewed many available providers. I found trying to aquire an understanding of what to expect, as to home help and the cost from a providers.
    It appeared few were willing to share the intricate finer facts how the care funding is deployed to help with an aged person’s home needs and how to receive and from who at what cost.
    Some providers are far too costly, I see this as abusing the system it’s like stealing lolly money from a child and like the child, the aged person has no where to go for support. yes there’s a complaints line, if they can get to a phone and the person answering the phone is taking time to listen to what’s being said.
    If you want to know what the aged need ask those who the funding is for, not the providers they’re not under hardship.
    I have experience a lack of compassion and respect from the young work sector.

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