Legal Insights

A sector in need of immediate reform – the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

By Elizabeth Blanch

• 08 April 2020 • 3 min read

Senior Associate Elizabeth Blanch outlines the progress of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, including the Commissioners’ Interim Report titled 'Neglect'. The Royal Commission hearings are continuing through 2020, with the final report due on 12 November 2020.

In brief

  • The Royal Commission continues for its second year in 2020.
  • The interim report titled 'Neglect' published on 31 October 2019 which identified 3 areas requiring immediate action:
    • more Home Care Packages
    • respond to over-reliance on chemical restraint
    • stop flow of younger people with disability going into aged care.
  • Commonwealth Government promised $537 million funding package in response to the Interim Report. The Final report is due 12 November 2020.

Background

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety (the Royal Commission) released its Interim Report on 31 October, titled ‘Neglect’ (the Interim Report).

The Interim Report makes a clear finding that the aged care system fails to meet the needs of Australia’s older, and often vulnerable citizens and calls for a change to the ‘cruel and harmful system’.

The Commissioners make profound comments about Australia’s attitude to older Australians, commenting that,

As a nation, Australia has drifted into an ageist mindset that undervalues older people and limits their possibilities.
The Interim Report is divided into three volumes:
Volume 1
Sets out key information and conclusions reached by the Commissioners in respect of the hearings held from February to September 2019.
Volume 2
Provides an overview of each of the public hearings from February up to and including the Darwin and Cairns headings in July 2019.
Volume 3
Contains appendices which includes summaries of community forums and roundtable discussions.

There are three areas that the Commissioners identified in the Interim Report as requiring immediate action:

  1. to provide more Home Care Packages to reduce the waiting list for higher level care at home
  2. to respond to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care, including through the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement
  3. to stop the flow of younger people with disability going into aged care and expediting the process of getting those younger people who are currently in aged care into alternative care.

The Scott Morrison-led Federal Government has formally responded to the Interim Report. In a media release dated 25 November 2019, the Government stated that they are:

taking strong action to respond to the three priority areas identified in the Aged Care Royal Commission’s Interim Report release on October 31, by increasing home care packages, reducing chemical restraints and getting young people out of residential aged care

he Government promised a $537 million funding package which it will spend as follows:

  • $496.3 million for an additional 10,000 Home Care Packages
  • $25.5 million to improve medication management programs
  • $10 million for additional dementia training and support for aged care workers and providers
  • $4.7 million to help meet new targets to remove younger people with disabilities from residential aged care

The Government has also declared ‘Quality Use of Medicines and Medicines Safety’ a ‘National Health Priority’, and has made amendments to the Quality of Care Principles 2014 (Cth) to minimise the use of chemical and physical restraints in residential care.

The Royal Commission hearings are continuing through 2020 and as foreshadowed in the Interim Report, the focus has turned to exploring the future design of the aged care system. The first hearing of 2020 was held in Adelaide on 21 February and focused on the future of the aged care workforce and inquired into staffing numbers and mix, terms and conditions of employment, workforce planning and the role of the Commonwealth, education and training of the workforce and registration of personal care workers. A further hearing was held on 4 March 2020 and focused on future aged care program redesign.

By Elizabeth Blanch

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