This is excellent news and highlights the Coalition Government’s commitment to quality care for older Australians.
As a community we expect high standards for the quality and safety of aged care services. This Royal Commission will be about proactively determining what we need to do in the future to ensure these expectations can be met. A Royal Commission into the Aged Care Sector will primarily look at the quality of care provided in Residential and Home Aged Care and will also include young Australians with disability living in Residential Aged Care settings.
Since May 2017, following revelations which closed South Australia’s Oakden aged care facility, the Government commissioned the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes – a review into quality across the aged care sector and asked for increased inspection and compliance work. As a result of this work, the Department of Health has closed almost one aged care service per month since Oakden, with an increasing number under sanction to improve their care. This is not acceptable. Incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care simply cannot be explained or excused. We must be assured about how widespread these cases are. We also want to be assured about the care provided to younger Australians living in the residential aged care facilities.
Evidence to date shows that the problems are not restricted to any one part of the aged care sector, whether it is for profit or not for profit, large or small facilities, regional or major metropolitan. The Royal Commission will look at the sector as a whole, without bias or prejudice. It will make findings on the evidence. As a Government, and a Parliament, it will be our job to act on these findings together
The Royal Commission will not impact any existing or planned actions to improve the standards and quality of care being provided in aged care facilities.
In Fairfax, I prioritised services and care for older Australians through the establishment of my Fairfax Seniors Advisory Committee. I meet with the Committee regularly and host a Seniors Forum each year. The outcomes of these Forums inform the development of Federal policy – including the Federal Government’s Aged Care Package announced in the 2018/19 budget.
Terms of Reference
The Terms of Reference will be determined in consultation with the community, including residents and their families and aged care providers. It is expected to cover:
- The quality of care provided to older Australians, and the extent of substandard care;
- The challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care, particularly younger people with disabilities;
- The challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia and addressing their care needs as they age;
- The future challenges and opportunities for delivering aged care services in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia;
- Any other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary.
What is the Federal Government already doing to support the Aged Care sector?
- Funding for aged care is at record levels. In 2017-18, alone, aged care spending is estimated to reach $18.6 billion. Over the next five years funding will grow by $5 billion to $23.6 billion.
- $1.6 billion has been provided to create an additional 20,000 higher needs home care packages since December 2017.
- In excess of $50 million is being provided every year for dementia-specific programs.
- A further $5.3 million has been committed over four years to pilot improvements to care for people living with dementia, with an emphasis on use of innovative technologies.
- We have already taken steps to improve the aged care system. In 2017 we commissioned the Review of National Aged Care Quality Regulatory Processes.
- We have worked through the 2017 Legislated Review of Aged Care, and responded in the 2018 Budget with the More Choices for a Longer Life package that encouraged active ageing and provided an extra $1.6 billion for home care.
- We have legislated for new Aged Care Quality Standards, the first upgrade of standards in 20 years, and introduced a Bill to create the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, supported by $106 million to support better facilities, care and standards in aged care.
When will you consult and finalise terms of reference?
Minister Hunt and Minister Wyatt will start talking to stakeholders immediately. A website will be established and the community will be able to have an input. It’s expected the terms of reference will be finalised in the coming weeks along with the appointment of the commissioners.
Who will be the Commissioner?
We are working on this now. We want to take time to ensure that we have the right people working on this important task.
How long will the Commission go for?
This is the most important review of aged care. We do not want to rush it. We expect that it will report mid to late 2019.
Will the Commission consider funding / staff ratios?
We expect that these issues will be raised by the community. We will ensure that the terms of reference are broad enough to enable all issues raised by the community to be considered.
How can people have their say? Who do families and consumers contact?
Without pre-empting decisions by the Commissioner about how to conduct the inquiry, we are certain that there will be opportunities for aged care consumers, families, care workers, and the community to provide input into the inquiry. In the meantime, the Department of Health is establishing a web-site that people will be able to use to be kept informed of progress with this vital inquiry.