The aged care royal commission has handed its final report to the Federal Government after years of harrowing evidence at hearings across the nation.
Governor-General David Hurley received the report, which is likely to include more than one hundred recommendations for reform, at Sydney’s Admiralty House on Friday (February 26).
The two-year inquiry was told countless tales of abuse and neglect, with its 2019 interim paper calling for a complete overhaul of a “woefully inadequate” system.
The Government will review the report over the weekend and provide an interim response by the middle of next week.
“I’m committed to addressing the many issues that I’m sure will be raised in it,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters, pledging a more detailed response in the May budget.
The commission’s interim report found pay and conditions for staff were poor, workloads heavy and severe difficulties existed in recruitment and retention.
It also found there was an overuse of drugs to “restrain” aged care residents, while younger people with disabilities were stuck in aged care.
Patricia Sparrow, CEO of Aged and Community Services Australia, is part of a collection of providers that want a complete redesign of the system.
“The challenges for aged care are only going to grow in coming years, as the large Baby Boomer generation requires more support,” she said.
“After 20 years of missed opportunities, Australia cannot let the release of the final royal commission report pass without taking real action.”
Lawyers assisting the commission have made 124 recommendations, including for mandated staffing ratios, increased regulator powers and new laws to protect the rights of elderly people.
The sector, which is predominantly funded by the Commonwealth, has come under increased scrutiny during the pandemic, with 685 aged care residents dying from COVID-19.
The Federal Government has poured extra money into aged care in recent years, and announced in December a $1 billion boost aimed largely at creating 10,000 more home care packages.
Some 240,000 Australians currently live in residential aged care.
The commission heard from 641 witnesses and received more than 10,500 submissions.
SIGNIFICANT RECOMMENDATIONS MADE BY THE AGED CARE ROYAL COMMISSION INCLUDE:
- A new Aged Care Act enshrining the rights of older people and providing a universal entitlement for high-quality care.
- A national registration scheme for workers with mandatory qualification levels and checks.
- An increase in award wages and remuneration for staff.
- From July 2022, a “minimum staff time standard” requiring providers to ensure staff are engaged with the average resident for at least 200 minutes a day.
- New approval requirements for all providers by July 2024.
- Up-to-date and accessible information about care options and services, including a star rating.
- An Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pathway to provide culturally safe and flexible care.
- A strengthened quality regulator.
- Funding to meet the actual cost of high-quality care, with an independent pricing authority to determine the costs of delivery.
- Approval of home care packages within one month of someone’s assessment.
- Restricting the use of anti-psychotic drugs by only permitting initial prescription by a psychiatrist or a geriatrician.