Ian Yates shares priorities of new office

The Interim Inspector-General of Aged Care will soon consult with stakeholders about what the future independent body should focus on.

The Interim Inspector-General of Aged Care will soon consult with stakeholders about what the future independent body tasked with overseeing the administration, regulation and funding of the aged care system should focus on, he tells Australian Ageing Agenda.

The Inspector-General of Aged Care and the Office of the Inspector-General of Aged Care – which will support the IG to give independent oversight of the aged care system through reviews, ongoing monitoring, and reports – are recommendations of the aged care royal commission. Establishing the independent role and agency requires legislation, which is expected to pass mid-year.

In the meantime, Ian Yates – who commenced as Interim Inspector-General of Aged Care on 30 January – said he and the Office of the Interim Inspector-General of Aged Care are busy setting up the future independent body and modelling its functions ahead of its launch.

“We’d like to get the permanent office established at the earliest opportunity consistent with the proper parliamentary and government processes,” Mr Yates told AAA.

“Getting that done smoothly and on time in the year is important, but we’d also like to begin to demonstrate the potential of the office, both in terms of reporting and initiating reviews and getting the conversation happening about key systemic changes that will produce a better aged care system.

“A touchstone for me is, is reform achieving better outcomes for older people and their families? If it is not achieving as much as it could, then how can we help it get there?”

Mr Yates stepped down as chief executive of COTA Australia in December after more three decades with the seniors advocacy organisation. His new appointment – which involves the equivalent of four days a week – is until the permanent inspector general takes office, with a bit of overlap.

“The most significant immediate task underway is moving towards the introduction and passage of the Inspector General of Aged Care Bill,” he said.

“Consultation on the exposure draft closed at the end of January. The office is in the process of considering the input that came in both from external stakeholders and from within government, and preparing recommendations on any changes to the bill,” said Mr Yates.

“The intent is to get the office of inspector-general up and running in the second half of the year. The timing of legislation is a matter for government but we will have advice and documentation ready for ministers in the near future.”

Other plans for the first six months include consultation with stakeholders about the role of the interim and future inspector general and the areas in which to initially focus its functions.

“Our intention is to run a number of stakeholder roundtables over the next few months,” Mr Yates said. He and the office are also aiming to compile a report on the implementation of royal commission reforms up to the middle of the year and commence one or two in-depth reviews informed by the consultations.

Functions of the inspector-general

One of the functions of the inspector-general is reporting, including on progress of the implementation of royal commission recommendations.

“The royal commission recommended that at five years and 10 years, there’d be major reports on the effectiveness of the reform measures. But in the meantime, we anticipate a report on the progress that’s been made against the benchmarks that have been set,” Mr Yates said.

There could also be ad-hoc reports into the performance of any of the Commonwealth agencies within the office’s remit, which include the Department of Health and Aged Care, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority.

Other functions of the inspector-general and office are in-depth reviews on parts of the aged care system or its issues, and ongoing monitoring to understand how the system is going as a whole from various perspectives.

“We want to go out and talk to stakeholders about their views about what we ought to be looking for,” Mr Yates told AAA. “If we start one or two reviews when the interim office is in place, what do people think they should focus on?”

Consultation will include face-to-face and hybrid opportunities as well as channels to provide feedback. It will cover all aged care stakeholders such as providers, consumers, workers, the department, and the commission. A structured advisory body will also be set up in the coming months, Mr Yates said.

On his message to aged care stakeholders, Mr Yates said this brand-new entity offered a way to help improve the sector. “We haven’t had anything like this before. It’s an opportunity to embed a continuous improvement process and we just hope that people will engage with us to work out how best to do that.”

However, he stressed the office would focus on how to get the system to work better – not act as a court of last appeal.

“If people are not happy with things that have happened with the agencies of government, they can let us know. But we approach all that in a systemic way. We want to know about how complaints handling works, but we’re not investigating individual complaints.”

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