Aged care providers say they don’t fear scrutiny or accountability and have vowed to participate in the Royal Commission into the sector in the interests of a stronger and safer aged care system.
Prime minister Scott Morrison on Sunday announced the inquiry, saying a Royal Commission was needed to investigate what he called “a very disturbing trend” in terms of non-compliance, abuses and failures in care across the sector.
“When you’re confronted with that you ask a simple question,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“How widespread is this, how far does it go, does it touch on the whole sector?”
The inquiry will look at the quality of care in the residential and home care sectors, as well as care provided to young Australians with disabilities living in residential facilities.
Terms of reference
- Quality of care provided to older Australians and extent of substandard care
- Challenges of providing care to Australians with disabilities in residential aged care facilities
- Needs of Australians with dementia
- Future challenges in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia
- Any other matters considered necessary
Aged and Community Services Australia said while it believed the majority of care provided was of the highest quality, it supported the government’s decision to hold a Royal Commission.
“We are an industry committed to continuous improvement and addressing problems where they occur. We believe there is no room in our community for poor or inattentive care and we have zero tolerance for criminal abuse, assault or negligence,” CEO Pat Sparrow said in a statement.
“The aged care sector does not fear scrutiny or accountability. We have actively participated in multiple and substantial government-led inquiries and reviews over the years with the aim of improving and delivering quality aged care services.
“We will participate fully and transparently in the Royal Commission towards the same ends.”
Leading Age Services Australia also noted the 2017 Carnell-Paterson review had found a general high standard of residential care but acknowledged there had been “unacceptable” failures in the past.
An inquiry would improve the care provided by Australia’s 430,000 aged care workers and volunteers, CEO Sean Rooney said.
Aged Care Guild CEO Matthew Richter, whose members employ over 43,000 workers in more than 380 facilities across Australia, said safety and quality of care was non-negotiable.
“The Aged Care Guild hopes that a Royal Commission will stimulate action and contribute to a shift in Australian political and social ethos toward ageing,” Mr Richter said.
The consumer viewpoint
Consumer advocate COTA said it hoped the Royal Commission would be in addition to, rather than instead of, current moves to reform the system including the establishment of a quality and safety commission, more high level home care packages and moves to support and expand the aged care workforce.
“We know now that these changes need to happen, and the government should get on with them while the Royal Commission does its work to prepare for the future,” CEO Ian Yates said.
“These are urgent reforms that must still be implemented as a matter of urgency and cannot be delayed while we wait for outcomes of a Royal Commission that will run well into 2019.”
AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone, who regularly visits residential aged care facilities in Melbourne, warned the Royal Commission would uncover “uncomfortable and distressing stories and systemic failure”.
He said doctors were concerned about a lack of resources, staff and coordination between all the sectors involved in caring for older Australians.
The Australian Nurses Federation said a Royal Commission would do nothing to fix the aged care crisis unless the government introduced mandated staffing ratios.
“While the current aged care crisis clearly warrants a Royal Commission, we know what the problems are,” Federal Secretary Annie Butler said.
“It’s time to take action. Let’s start by introducing a safe staffing law.”
Labor said the Royal Commission was overdue.
“Labor will support a good examination of it, about you it has to be everything – staff, training, funding, and making sure that people get the care that they deserve,” opposition leader Bill Shorten told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.
The announcement came ahead of today’s Four Corners investigation into aged care, which goes to air at 8.30pm.
What they said:
- How widespread is this, how far does it go, does it touch on the whole sector? Until we can have clear answers on these questions I think Australians will be unsure – Scott Morrison
- I hope that this Royal Commission looks at not just individual homes and how they’re treating people, but the fundamental, systemic problems – Bill Shorten
- The aged care sector does not fear scrutiny or accountability. We will participate fully and transparently in the Royal Commission towards the same ends – ACSA CEO Pat Sparrow.
- Many of the solutions to realise these outcomes are already on the table. Whilst the Royal Commission is underway we must press on with addressing key workforce and funding issues, and not lose sight of making the system better right now – LASA CEO Sean Rooney.
- (There) are urgent reforms that must still be implemented as a matter of urgency and cannot be delayed while we wait for outcomes of a Royal Commission that will run well into 2019 – COTA CEO Ian Yates
- The AMA hopes that the Royal Commission will … lead to real reform of a sector that has been woefully neglected for decades – AMA President Tony Bartone
- (We) hope that a Royal Commission will stimulate action and contribute to a shift in Australian political and social ethos toward ageing – Aged Care Guild CEO Matthew Richter
- While the current aged care crisis clearly warrants a Royal Commission, we know what the problems are … It’s time to take action. Let’s start by introducing a safe staffing law – ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler