The Productivity Commission will now deliver its much anticipated Christmas present to the sector later than expected, with the draft report from its inquiry into aged care to be handed down at the end of January instead of December.
The adjusted timeline now means that the draft report will be published on 21 January 2011 and the final report will be provided to the government by the end of June 2011.
The request for an extension of the Caring for Older Australians inquiry’s reporting dates, made by the Commission itself, was recently granted by the Assistant Treasurer.
The Commission said that there were three main reasons for the delay- one of which was owed to the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) for not yet submitting its response.
“It is apparent from the submissions posted on our inquiry web site that we have yet to receive a submission from the Department of Health and Ageing,” said Deputy Chairman of the Productivity Commission, Commissioner Mike Woods.
“Given their central role in the aged care system, this is a key submission for this inquiry.
“Deferring our release date just to allow the receipt of one major submission would of itself not be a sufficient reason…However, our request for an extension cited three main reasons.”
The circular announcing the extension explained that the Commission also sought an extension “to allow sufficient time to consider the large number of submissions provided by stakeholders and to more closely align release dates with those of the Disability Care and Support inquiry.”
CEO of National Seniors Australia, Michael O’Neill, requested that the sector view the extension relative to the huge task at hand.
“At the end of the day, a month or two extension here or there is not the issue,” said Mr O’Neill.
“It’s more about ensuring that the report that is provided is comprehensive and that it provides a foundation for going forward.
“We need to keep it in perspective. A month or two now for reforms to impact for a decade or more is not all that significant.
“But it is important that DoHA responds to the inquiry in the same way that all of the other groups were required to meet the timeline.”
Commissioner Woods said that the Commission only received 254 of the 470-plus responses received by the July deadline for initial submissions.
“Since then the Commission has received a constant flow of submissions- a further 222 submissions as at 15 November, many of which are from major stakeholders in the aged care sector and it is still receiving submissions,” Commissioner Woods said.
“…Based on its previous experience with inquiries of this nature and with the aged care issue in particular, the Commission always anticipated it would receive a very high number of submissions.
“However, while the total number of submissions was not therefore unexpected, the number of submissions received after the due date and the delay in receiving a key department submission were.”
Commissioner Woods stressed the major interface between Disability Care and Support and Aged Care and the importance of proposing consistent reforms.
“What is important here is not just aligning the reporting dates for the two inquiries but, rather, by doing so the Commission has the added time to ensure the reforms suggested by each inquiry are sufficiently consistent and integrated so that any resulting changes deliver the best outcomes for stakeholders in both the disability care and support system and in the aged care system.”
CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Greg Mundy, said that given the unprecedented number of submissions, the inquiry’s extension is understandable.
“It’s important that the Commission gets it right,” Mr Mundy said.
“It’s [better] to say, ‘This timeline is not achievable and this one is. You only get this sort of opportunity once in a lifetime so it is important not to waste it.”
The Commission expects to provide the sector with a revised due date for submissions commenting on the draft report and the location and timing for draft report public hearings, upon the release of its draft report in early 2011.