Provider and consumer peak bodies and people with a lived experience of aged care are among those being invited to prepare statements for the first witness hearings at the aged care royal commission.
In opening statements on Friday, aged care royal commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs said the forthcoming public hearings to be conducted in each capital city and some regional centres would be an important part of the commission’s work.
The community engagement will also include open and invitation-only round table and informal discussions with a range of stakeholders in various locations, other opinion gathering exercises, such as surveys, and visiting some services, Ms Briggs told Friday’s preliminary hearing in Adelaide.
A key feature of the commission’s task is a focus on the future, and a world-class aged care system that Australia should have, Ms Briggs said.
“There has been a rising torrent of concern that the aged care system is faltering in certain areas of safety and quality and that it may not be fit for purpose. We need to ensure that all Australians have confidence that the system will deliver for them and their families,” she said.
The first witness hearings, which commence in Adelaide on 11 February and continue into the following week, will provide a broad overview of the current system, the aged care royal commission heard on Friday.
Counsel assisting the commission is in charge of identifying individuals to give evidence before the commission and deciding the order they appear.
Counsel assisting Timothy McEvoy QC told said the first fortnight of hearings would hear evidence about the key features of the aged care quality, safety and complaints systems and how system works in practice at a general level.
“There will also be information about the challenges faced by the aged care system,” Mr McEvoy told the hearing.
The hearings will include accounts from national peak bodies representing aged care providers, consumers and healthcare providers, and regulators, along with aged care consumers.
“The February hearing is not intended to be in anyway a comprehensive sample of the experience of those receiving care and people otherwise engaged with the aged care systems.
“But it is important to hear from those who have a direct lived experience of the aged care systems from the outset, if we can. The perspective of people receiving care is going to be central to this inquiry,” Mr McEvoy said.
Peaks preparing witness statements
Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow confirmed she would be providing a witness statement on behalf of ACSA at next month’s hearings.
She said she was pleased that the national aged care bodies, along with all other stakeholders, were being engaged and given the opportunity to provide evidence from the outset.
“One of the good things about this is that it should be a balanced look with all of the relevant parties able to put forward their views,” Ms Sparrow told Australian Ageing Agenda following Friday’s preliminary hearing.
“But they did say their focus is really on the quality and safety of the care that is provided for older Australians. That is appropriate and we will support them in that endeavour.”
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates also confirmed the consumer peak was also preparing a witness statement for the February hearings that would scope out its perspectives on the system and where it ought to go in the future.
“The commission has also asked us and other consumer organisations to come up with people who might be prepared to participate,” Mr Yates told AAA after the Friday’s hearing.
He said COTA was interested in consumers presenting both poor and positive instances of care and was particularly keen to understand how those providing the best care did that with the same subsidy and regulatory environment as the rest of the sector.
Mr Yates said the broad nature of the first witness hearings was a sensible approach to meet the challenge of covering the breadth and depth necessary within 16 months.
“The value of having a context-setting first two weeks is most people don’t understand the complexity of aged care. It allows the whole nation to get up to speed because we need to understand both the horror stories and the good things and the challenges of getting those good things to be the norm,” he said.
Mr McEvoy said public hearings, roundtable and community consultations would be conducted throughout this year and into next year in each state and territory capital city, and in some regional centres.
“We hope that community roundtables will be held in even more disparate locations, and the royal commission will release details on these opportunities as soon as they can be organised,” he said.
The regional centres where hearings will take place have not yet been named.
Most hearings will focus on particular themes relevant to the terms of reference, with those themes developing during the course of the inquiry with learnings from hearings, submissions, roundtable discussions, public meetings and research, the hearing heard.
The likely major themes to be addressed by the commission include:
- quality and safety
- access and inclusion
- young people with disability
- interface and transitions
- future challenges and opportunities
- how to deliver care in a sustainable way
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