Root and branch reform needed in aged-care sector: inquiry

The aged-care services sector has largely failed older Australians and needs to be urgently overhauled, a damning royal commission report says.

The final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety – tabled in Federal Parliament this week – calls for fundamental reform in the way the sector is governed, managed, and financed.

“The extent of substandard care in Australia’s aged care system reflects both poor qualities on the part of some aged care providers and fundamental systemic flaws with the way the system is designed and governed,” the report says.

“For too long, the legislation that governs aged care has focused on the funding requirements of aged-care providers rather than the care needs of older people.”

Although there has been a shift towards the consolidation of the aged care sector in the hands of fewer large-scale operators, there remains a small group of state and territory government and local government providers.

The report contains 148 recommendations, including:

  • An Inspector-General of Aged Care to identify and investigate systemic issues and to publish reports of its findings;
  • Professionalising the aged-care workforce through changes to education, training, wages, labour conditions, and career progression;
  • A minimum quality and safety standard for staff time in residential aged care, including an appropriate skills mix and daily minimum staff time for registered nurses, enrolled nurses and personal care workers for each resident;
  • Strengthened provider governance arrangements to ensure independence, accountability, and transparency; and
  • Funding to meet the actual cost of high-quality care (to be provided by a new aged care levy).

The Royal Commissioners, Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs, said the recommendations are intended to ensure a new aged care that “delivers timely high-quality care and support to enable older people to live an active, self-determined and meaningful life in a safe and caring environment”.

The Morrison Government has been asked to table its response to Parliament by 31 May.