The Aged Care Complaints Commissioner has fielded and resolved more complaints than last year, however new research suggests that some older Australians recently surveyed have never even heard of it.
The release of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner’s 2017-2018 Annual Report, tabled on 21 September, revealed a rise of complaints by 47 percent over the last two years, exceeding last year’s figures by 1,068.
The report also revealed 73 percent of complaints were resolved within 30 days, while 93 percent of complaints were actioned within 90 days.
“We have worked hard to make people aware of our service and that complaining is worthwhile,” Aged Care Complaints Commissioner, Rae Lamb says.
“People want their complaints taken seriously and dealt with urgently and we make every effort to make sure that they are satisfied with the result and that we are satisfied with the result.
“Three complaints in every five are finalised to satisfaction of the complainant and the rest are only finalised when we are satisfied.”
Ms Lamb says the report shows the work is “paying off” and demonstrates a strengthening relationship between the Complaints Commissioner and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency.
Federal Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt says the report, indicating a 23 percent increase in the number of received complaints, highlights increasing awareness of the Complaints Commissioner.
However, new research by National Seniors Australia has put a microscope on the current state of Australia's aged care literacy, releasing the findings of a survey completed by 5,447 of their members (and 142 non-members).
The survey revealed that more than 60 percent of the older Australians who responded had never heard of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner and 65 percent felt there were no options for where to take their concerns.
National Seniors Interim Chief Executive Officer and Research Director, Professor John McCallum says the research shows many older Australians lack the knowledge, skill and motivation to access aged care services, including lodging complaints and voicing any concerns they have.
He says in order to protect themselves and enjoy the quality of care they deserve, older Australians “need to be more literate when it comes to aged care”.
“If they don’t, many Australians will be caught out when they need to access care, let alone if they must deal with the types of neglect and abuse issues we’re facing now,” he says.
“The absolute goal is to have zero tolerance for the types of endemic problems that have been revealed recently, many of which have surfaced since the introduction of unannounced accreditation assessments.”
The National Seniors research also revealed 70 percent of older Australians who responded had never looked at the My Aged Care website, 85 percent had never phoned the Government service, and 80 percent didn't understand how consumer contributions to aged care were assessed.
Professor McCallum says it’s the consumers who can help drive change by “becoming better informed”, with many Australians fearing retribution in exchange for lodging a complaint.
He says “providers and Government need to assist in developing consumer knowledge and literacy, so information is more readily available.”
National Seniors is urging the Royal Commission to look at how the education process could be improved.
“We must ensure they [residential care] meet the required standard, that people can learn how to access the information they need quickly and easily, and they can complain without fear of retribution or being ignored,” Professor McCallum says.
Recently, Minister Wyatt announced that the Complaints Commissioner and the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency will form part of the new Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in January 2019.
“I am confident the new Commission will better target sub-standard care. It will be a central point to identify failures, highlights quality concerns and have them rectified,” he says.
He notes that voicing concerns about the quality of care will be “made easier” with one agency in control of managing and resolving the received complaints.
“The Complaints Commissioners growing activity - which will continue through the new Quality and Safety Commission - highlights our Government is getting on with the job of improving aged care, as the recently announced Royal Commission goes about its important work,” the Minister says.