Respect, Care and Dignity – Aged Care Royal Commission $452 million immediate response as Government commits to historic reform

The Australian Government welcomes the Final Report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, which has today been tabled in Parliament, noting its significant and sweeping proposals for reform of the aged care sector.

As a country it is important that we all acknowledge that we need to do more to ensure senior Australians are treated with respect, care and dignity and have access to quality care as they age.

The Royal Commission’s Final Report recognises the immense effort of our nurses and carers but also brings the challenges of aged care services into clear focus. The Government is committed to transforming aged care and the Royal Commission’s monumental report, with 148 recommendations, delivers a challenging, but achievable road to reform.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said it was clear from the Royal Commission’s work that while significant progress has been made, there is a clear roadmap to improve respect and care for our older Australians.

“I called this Royal Commission to ensure our oldest and most frail Australians could receive the respect and care that supports their dignity, and recognises the contribution that they have made to society,” the Prime Minister said.

“I warned when I called the Royal Commission there will be stories that will be hard to hear. And that has been the case. But at the same time, we have also heard heart-warming cases of dedication and with the challenges of COVID-19 in the past year, we need to acknowledge the hard work performed by our aged care workforce.

“As I noted at the time, Australians must be able to trust that their loved ones will be cared for appropriately and the community should have confidence in the system. This remains our clear goal.

“Today, the Australian Government is continuing to drive reforms with additional funding of $452.2 million to address immediate priorities in the sector.”

These immediate steps will drive improved quality of care by strengthening aged care provider governance, and improved oversight of home care which will ensure senior Australians and taxpayers are getting value for money.

It will provide additional financial assistance for residential care providers so they can improve care, whilst building the much needed workforce of the future to support Australians who want to age in their own homes.

Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, reiterated the Australian Government’s commitment to the necessary reform of aged care.

“The Royal Commission’s report is a significant document, the culmination of a two year inquiry, and demands a carefully considered response,” Minister Hunt said.

“We thank the Royal Commissioners and commit to the two fundamental principles of respect and care for our elders. We responded quickly to the Royal Commission’s interim report and its special report on COVID-19, with additional investments in the priority areas identified by the Royal Commission.

“The Government announced a $537 million package in November 2019 in response to the Interim Report, with a focus on more home care packages, reducing the number of young people living in residential aged care, and improving medication management.

“As part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in aged care $1.8 billion was committed last year, including a $132 million package in November 2020. This funding is increasing access to mental health support and allied health services for aged care residents, and has provided significant additional financial support to improve infection prevention and control and workforce capability in aged care facilities during the pandemic.

“Today, we announce a further $452.2 million package as an initial step in responding to this Final Report.

“Our comprehensive response to the Royal Commission final report will be driven by the principle of respect and care and through the lens of five broad pillars –

1. Home Care,

2. Residential aged care quality and safety,

3. Residential aged care services and sustainability,

4. Workforce, and

5. Governance.

“The five pillars will underpin the Australian Government’s response, along with its reform agenda and the implementation of those changes.”

1. Supporting older Australians who choose to access Home Care

The Australian Government knows with more Australians wishing to stay in their own homes as they age, there is increasing demand for appropriate services to help them do so. This has been a key focus of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.

Since the 2018-19 Budget, the Government has invested a total of $5.5 billion in new funding to deliver more than 83,000 additional home care packages, including 10,000 packages announced in December 2020.

Minister Hunt said service providers must focus on the senior Australians at the centre of their work, to ensure their needs are met and that the care they receive continues to be tailored as those needs change.

“The Australian Government will immediately invest more than $18 million to enhance the oversight of the Government’s Home Care Packages Program, to deliver better value for senior Australians and the Australian taxpayer,” Minister Hunt said.

“Our Government expects home care providers to offer real value for money – and for the delivery of care, rather than any unjustified administrative fees, to make up the lion’s share of the cost. I expect our increased oversight will put downward pressure on any unfair administrative charges while supporting providers to deliver quality and safe services.”

Enhancing oversight of the delivery of home care packages will lead to more care and services going directly to care recipients and reduce the potential for fraud in the system.

2. Quality and safety in residential aged care delivers dignity alongside care

The Australian Government is committed to driving improvements to quality of care and safety for senior Australians.

Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, said the Government will review and enhance the sector’s quality standards with a focus on areas of concern identified in the report, including governance, diversity, dementia, food and nutrition.

“Funding worth $32 million will immediately be allocated to enhancing the capacity of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and greater regulation around the use of restraints in care,” Minister Colbeck said.

Eligible providers will be able to access programs to build their corporate and clinical governance across their Boards, to support increased accountability through strengthened legislative obligations. This will complement broader reforms, including improvements to provider governance and regulation.

“The use of physical and chemical restraint is a particular area of focus for the Royal Commission, and our Government has announced a number of measures to drive cultural change in this area following an independent review into the issue.

“In response to the Royal Commission, the Government will further establish clear new obligations and guidelines around the use of restraint to protect older Australians receiving care. A Senior Restraint Practitioner will be appointed to the Commission to lead an education campaign for the sector and general practitioners, to minimise the use of restraint, and bring practice into line with those in the disability sector.”

3. Investing to drive improvements in residential aged care Services and Sustainability

Minister Colbeck said the Australian Government wants to ensure there continues to be stable and reliable residential aged care options for senior Australians.

“The Australian Government committed more than $14.1 billion in 2020-21 towards residential aged care, up from $9.2 billion in 2012‑13 and reaching an estimated $17.1 billion by 2023‑24,” Minister Colbeck said.

“In response to the Royal Commission report, the Australian Government will immediately invest an additional $189.9 million for residential care providers to provide stability and maintain services while the Government considers the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s Final Report.

“This support equates to around $760 per resident in metropolitan residential aged care, and $1,145 for those in rural, regional and remote areas.”

In addition, the Government will invest $90 million to support a Viability Fund to assist those facilities which are facing financial challenges, particularly as we see the sector start to restructure and respond to the changing choices of people to live at home longer.

4. Workforce: growing a passionate and skilled aged care workforce

As more Australians are supported to remain in their homes, there will be an increasing demand for skilled personal care workers (PCWs).

In response to the Royal Commission, the Government will immediately invest $92 million to create over 18,000 places for workers between now and mid-2023.

“There will be a significant increase in activity to attract job seekers into the sector, and a new Home Care Workforce Support Program will provide additional targeted support, including assistance to employers to access support and training for new recruits,” Minister Hunt said.

“The total value of measures to grow the skilled and professional aged care workforce is almost $92 million over four years.”

5. Governance: oversight, standards and accountability – a new era

The Prime Minister said community confidence and the trust of senior Australians and their families would be bolstered by changes which bring transparency, accountability and oversight.

“Along with the measures to further develop residential aged care governance, our Government is also strengthening the arm of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, by appointing an Assistant Commissioner for Sector Capability with responsibility for leading a transformative change program,” he said.

Minister Colbeck said the enhanced oversight of the home care system will ensure senior Australians receive the quality of care they expect and that they get good value for the considerable investment made by families themselves and by Government in aged care.

In response to the Royal Commission, the Government will immediately invest $30.1 million to strengthen the governance of aged care providers and legislative governance obligations on the sector.

Minister Hunt also confirmed that work will immediately commence to replace the Aged Care Act 1997, providing a strong, fresh foundation to enable the reforms to be implemented and drive a cultural change with the focus on responding to the needs of senior Australians.

All of these immediate measures announced today are a starting point for further reform. Careful consideration will be given to the Royal Commission report and the Government will outline the path to transform aged care in the Budget.

The Prime Minister said, “Ultimately I called this Royal Commission as one of my first acts because I believe we owe a duty of care to every older Australian to ensure they have respect and quality care.

“This report provides an honest assessment and an important roadmap to deliver still greater respect and care for our older Australians. As a nation we commit to further honouring our elders and giving them respect and care.”

The Government thanks the Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO, for their considerable work in conducting the Royal Commission and all those who contributed throughout the course of the inquiry.

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