This week the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report into aged care was published detailing an extensive plan to overhaul Australia’s aged-care system. The seven volumes of the report cover every aspect of reform needed to ensure that the growing number of older Australians can live out the remainder of their lives with dignity.
There are 148 recommendations - many of which are not new having appeared in the score of reports and inquiries that preceded them.
On the day of the report’s release the Prime Minister, assisted by Health Minister Hunt and Aged Care Services Minister Colbeck, responded by announcing $452 million of measures to address “immediate priorities”.
A fuller response by the Government is expected in the May Budget and that is where CHA, in conjunction with the broader sector through the auspices of the newly-formed Australian Aged Care Collaboration, will focus its advocacy efforts.
But the report revealed divergent views among the Commissioners on many issues, namely the governance of aged care - whether it should remain a part of government or independent of it - and how to fund such reforms.
We believe that failure by the Commissioners to speak with a united voice has made the political mission that much harder.
Nevertheless CHA’s initial reaction is to call on the Government to concentrate its efforts on five key areas that we believe are of paramount importance:
- Firstly, families and older Australians need to be at the heart of the system. We need to give them choice and control over the type of care they need, including gradually removing the waiting list for home care packages and ending the rationing of services;
- Secondly, we need to recognise that our workforce - the backbone of the sector - need to be properly trained, and paid more. And on top of that we need more of them to service the needs of a growing population of elderly Australians;
- Thirdly, in order for people to exercise choice they need more information and that can only happen with greater transparency and disclosure that rates performance. Financial reporting to independent pricing authority at service level as well as the disclosure of staffing levels would also help;
- Fourthly, there is a need for a secure source of funding to ensure the sustainability of high quality aged care services;
- And lastly, as we move to greater integration between health and aged care, we need to improve access by older people in aged care to the services of the wider health system such as specialist palliative care, oral health, mental health, GPs and allied health.
None of this is going to happen overnight - the challenges of recruiting more staff and uncapping of home care packages alone are considerable.
In the next few days CHA will provide a fuller analysis and will keep you up to date on what progress is being made within government so that this once in a generation opportunity for lasting and meaningful reform does not pass us by.