Aged Care Royal Commission: Part One

As we enter a historic year for Australia’s aged care sector, Ellis Jones looks at some of the activities, issues and perceptions which will affect providers, consumers and the government. In part one of our series, we look at what we know so far, and what has come before.

What we know so far.

On 16 September, 2018 the Australian Government announced a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

On Tuesday, 9 October, and following submissions from a range of sources, the Terms of Reference for the commission were released. For those working in the sector, nothing in the terms of reference is at odds with the approach and philosophy of effective providers. We should expect responses to reflect this.

The next key milestones were announced on 14 December 2018. All major providers are to detail complaints and ‘occasions of substandard care’ over the past five years to the Commission by 7 January 2019 (24 days after the letter was sent) with other providers given until 8 February 2019. The focus on substandard care and complaints should be a baseline from which to identify recurring issues, the causes, and then determine solutions.

On 24 December 2018, the Commission opened the doors to public submission, which can be submitted online, via post or phone. Over 5000 submissions were made to the Terms of Reference for the Commission. Their stories need to be heard, but the sheer quantity and emotive nature will feed the growing negative public perception of aged care.

The Royal Commission’s interim report is to be provided by 31 October 2019, and its final report no later than 30 April 2020.

In summary, the overarching grounds for the exercise appear fair, the immediate focus on negative cases (most of which we should hope are known to the government) is necessary although concerning, and the pace is extraordinarily high for a sector with limited resources.

This needs to end well.

For anyone working within the aged care sector for the past decade, it has felt like steering a boat through a storm, straining against a rudder that at any given time is tugged by unforeseeable issues in the provision of individual care, and buffeted by the waves of market and generational changes with near ceaseless government intervention, consultation and reform.

Change is welcome when it can be defined and measured, and when we have the resources to respond. For example, the Productivity Commission’s Caring for Older Australians inquiry, completed in 2011, made a lot of the issues and opportunities clear. With time it led to an aged care roadmap with broad consensus across the sector, and consultation with (if not endorsement from) the Commonwealth. It’s instructive reading.

However, in 2018 alone, we had two senate inquiries, a workforce strategy, the announcement of the single set of quality standards and a Royal Commission. The year before two major reviews (Tune, and Carnell and Paterson), as well as a reduction in funding for aged care places, in real terms. At the same time, we have well over 100,000 people awaiting a home care package at the assessed level.

So, let this be the sector-wide review that aggregates and considers all the work of recent years. A review to end all reviews, at least for long enough that providers can address recommendations and obligations.

Ellis Jones has developed a model to support the sector to proactively address and respond to the Royal Commission. Beyond the initial submissions, our approach focuses on engaging older Australians and their families into the future. And responding tactical over time to strengthen, not weaken, the sector’s resilience and integrity. Download the model here.

As providers head into a busy 2019, we’re here to help. Talk to us about turning challenge into opportunity.