A group of 12 aged care consumer peak bodies have identified a coordinated set of measures for the government to include in the upcoming Federal Budget and act on immediately.
The alliance led by Council on the Ageing Australia has outlined the reforms in the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report that must be delivered within the next 12-18 months.
The group released the joint statement on Monday, the same day as an alliance of provider groups also released a report on the reforms it says the government should prioritise in the next month’s Federal Budget (read more here).
Those key reforms span 10 areas and include requiring providers to publish real-time data on staffing, quality performance, financial information and consumer experience, implementing minimum staffing levels among a trained, registered and qualified workforce across all settings and developing a simple aged care system where assessed and appropriate care is guaranteed within 30 days.
The group also said there was urgent need to establish a human rights-based Aged Care Act that ensures consumer choice and control, contains stronger protections for consumers and better accountability of aged care providers, and a strongly resourced independent regulator that takes robust action to ensure consumer protections.
The consumer groups also indicate their preference for the governance and regulation of aged care in the future including a bi-partisan joint standing committee in Parliament similar to NDIS, an inspector-general who reports to parliament, an independent pricing commissioner just for aged care and a council of elders.
It also supports the recommendation for an independent taskforce with an independent chair and independent members as well as senior government officials to drive the reforms.
COTA Australia chief executive Ian Yates said all of the reforms highlighted by the group must be implemented together to be able to address the sector’s issues.
“The point is they’re a package… because this is not about changing some aspects of the aged care program, this is about reinventing the aged care program,” Mr Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Several inquiries into the aged care sector have already outlined the need to reinvent the aged care system, however it has not happened, he said.
“If we don’t do it now, then the numbers of people needing support in the near future are such that the system will literally break because it’s not properly structured. It’s not properly funded and it doesn’t do the job it’s supposed to do,” Mr Yates said.
“It’s got far too much poor quality and… no incentives and rewards for higher quality providers. In fact, there’s red tape that prevents them from growing.”
Now is the time to make these structural changes in the sector, Mr Yates said.
“Our point is very simple, that if you want to make major structural change to aged care, you have to have a coordinated set of measures started in a similar timeframe. You can’t put some of them off and many of these things are not new,” Mr Yates said.
“You can’t make these changes overnight, which is why you have to start pretty quickly,” he said.
Aged care providers can support these reforms by making their views known to their members of parliament, Mr Yates said.
He also called on providers to accept the need for greater transparency in the sector.
“[Providers] can read the tea leaves and accept that this is the time when things like transparency and a commitment to high performing quality systems are as many providers have said, not something you have to wait for government to force you to do,” he said.
“There are providers who are saying right now to government, we’re very happy to be totally transparent about our quality systems… They’re setting the standard that government needs to require of everybody,” he said.
Other key reforms the group calls for include:
- immediately increasing home care and home support funding, ensuring that there is a maximum 30-day wait period for home care by no later than December 2022, and implementing a single care at home program that provides individualised care by 2023
- abolishing the Aged Care Approvals Round and giving older people control of their residential aged care funding
- developing a funding model that grows with needs and ensures sufficient taxpayer funding, balanced with consumer contributions
- providing equitable access to health services including dental care, medication reviews, mental health services, allied health, and restorative care and reablement
- legislating a commitment to ensuring the lived experience of older people using care services is given real weight in accreditation, reviews, quality measurement, recruitment and every aspect of the aged care system
- committing to a timetable detailing when reforms will be commenced and implemented, and co-designing them with older Australians
- a commitment to respecting diversity throughout aged care in standards, training, accountability, access pathways and service design
- providing greater support for family and friend carers including a major increase in accessible respite care and a network of carer hubs
- initiating a program of independent care finders to help navigate aged care, better information and more advocacy services
In addition to COTA Australia, the group includes Association of Independent Retirees, Carers Australia, Dementia Australia, Elder Abuse Action Australia, Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, Legacy Australia, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, National Seniors Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network, PICAC Alliance, Returned and Services League Australia.
View the joint statement here.