Our obligations from the Royal Commission report

By Sean Rooney, CEO of Leading Age Services Australia
Wednesday, 28 April, 2021

Our obligations from the Royal Commission report

Better ageing futures for older Australians is the thrust of the final report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety — empowering older Australians to live the lives they choose and enabling our elders to do the things that are meaningful for them as they age. How we support and care for older people is defined by a new vision of ageing and aged care.

The Royal Commissioners said the Australian aged-care system is unacceptable and unsustainable in its current form. The extent of substandard care in Australia’s aged-care system is intolerable, reflecting poor quality on the part of some aged-care providers and systemic flaws in the way the Australian aged-care system is designed and governed. For those individuals or services who have been found to be unable or unwilling to meet quality standards, they must address these issues or exit the system. The sector is committed to doing better and we have made changes to raise standards — and we are continuing to do so.

The systemic problems identified include inadequate funding, variable provider governance and behaviour, absence of system leadership and guidance, and poor access to health care. The role of government and its need to make decisions between competing priorities is at the heart of the shortfalls in Australia’s aged-care system.

Many of the people and institutions in the sector want to deliver the best possible care to older people but are overwhelmed, underfunded or out of their depth.

The final report must drive Australia and our governments to come together to achieve world-leading care. We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to change and his emphasis on a new Aged Care Act that will be based on an individual’s needs and rights.

Aged care needs to be defined by the meaningful and measurable differences we make in people’s lives. We must reshape and reimagine the story of Australian aged care because we have a broken system, and the Royal Commission is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make aged care better.

Aged-care providers need to be rewarded for their initiative and performance, so that we can demonstrate and build on the positive impact they make in people’s lives. Then our communities will be confident that our aged-care system delivers good-quality and value-for-money care. We must have a system that will result in accessible, affordable care and services; choice for older people when and where they need it, delivered by more well-trained and well-paid staff who work in a high-performing and sustainable aged-care system. This is what older Australians need and deserve and this is what our sector wants to deliver, with strong levels of governance and transparency, supported by the government in their initial response to the report. Implemented effectively, the resulting reforms will build the foundation for aged care that is sustainable, centred on individual rights and respect.

However, we cannot do this alone and that is why Leading Age Services Australia — the largest representative organisation of aged care and retirement living — is a committed member of the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC). The AACC is conducting a national campaign, aiming to ensure that the opportunity presented by the Royal Commission to transform the aged-care system is a top priority.

The campaign includes the detailed report ‘It’s time to care about aged care’, a national petition and engagements with Members of Parliament in the 30 ‘oldest’ electorates in Australia.

The Royal Commission found that Australia spends less than half of what other comparable countries spend on aged care, and getting the support for the system right must be part of the solution. Given the level of funding required, we need to consider what is likely to be a mix of contributions between government funding and consumer contributions. Options include a levy, personal contributions, support for home equity release, and payment through superannuation products such as annuities and longevity insurance.

We urge the government to use their considerable resources to take the various recommendations made by the Commissioners to deliver the best model that incorporates a mixture of these.

It is worth noting that research for the Royal Commission found 61% of current taxpayers were willing to pay more tax to support aged care.

Older people require access to care and support that is safe, high quality and delivered with passion and compassion, always.

The government and the federal parliament must analyse where there are differences of opinions in the report and push ahead with massive reforms to improve the quality of life for all older people.

We must not see our rapidly ageing population as a ‘problem’ or a ‘burden’ — instead, more older Australians signifies our success as a nation in enabling people to live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

This is a critical investment in prioritising quality care and choice, while driving professionalism, more jobs and a post-COVID expansion for a stronger economy.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/simona

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