Aged care reforms and urgent action to improve the sector’s viability must go ahead now despite the six-month extension of the royal commission, stakeholders say.
Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians Richard Colbeck announced on Friday that government approved the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s request for a six-month extension to hear more evidence.
Mr Colbeck also announced the appointment of former Federal Court of Australia judge Tony Pagone as the third royal commissioner, who will work with fellow commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs for the remainder of the inquiry.
The due date of the royal commission’s final report has been extended from 20 April to 12 November 2020.
The commissioners are still required to submit their interim report by 31 October this year, a spokesperson from the royal commission told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Call to act before Christmas
Industry peak body Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the extra time would allow the royal commission to investigate the complex issues of aged care more deeply, but it must not delay reforms.
“We cannot delay action on making the aged care system better right now by addressing the key issues of access to services, funding of services, quality of services and supporting the workforce that delivers these services,” Mr Rooney said.
“Urgent action – before Christmas this year – is required to avert the increasing risk of service failures, job losses and missed care while the royal commission considers longer term reforms,” Mr Rooney said.
Mr Rooney reiterated the importance of the aged care royal commission’s opportunity to make the aged care system better for all older Australians, and calls for it to be done right.
The CEO of fellow peak body the Aged Care Guild CEO, Matthew Richter, also called on government to act now.
“While the royal commission continues its important work, the Aged Care Guild urgently calls on government to demonstrate leadership and put an end to ad-hoc and uncoordinated policy activity,” Mr Richter told AAA.
Mr Richter said the extension reflected the complexity of aged care.
“The guild hopes the additional time will allow for deep and holistic analysis of ageing in Australia, looking at both current and future issues,” Mr Richter said.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Patricia Sparrow said the extension was necessary to ensure in-depth discussions.
“There is good reason to feel optimistic about what can be achieved through the royal commission, but until we see adequate planning for the structural and funding issues, Australia won’t be able to fully address the needs of older Australians – let alone the future challenges of our ageing population,” Ms Sparrow said.
Opposition calls aged care system ‘broken’
Shadow minister for ageing and seniors Julie Collins said the extension must not be an excuse to fail older Australians accessing aged care services.
“With the interim report from the royal commission due in October and dozens of reports and recommendations already on its desk there is plenty the government needs to do now,” Ms Collins said.
A year on from the announcement of the royal commission “Australia’s aged care system is broken after years of inaction and cuts,” Ms Collins said.
Ms Collins said the government does not need to wait for the final report to act on existing issues the sector is facing.
“It is shameful that in a wealthy country like Australia older people can’t get the care they need,” she said.
The aged care royal commission is reviewing the closing date for public submissions, which will be open until at least the end of this month.
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