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Consumer peaks unite to propose their own aged care reform plan

A detailed response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety's Final Report was issued by 12 aged care consumer organisations this week, identifying their opinions on key reforms the Federal Government should implement ahead of the Federal Budget.

The signatories set out new arrangements for aged care governance that would strengthen aged care's independence, funding, quality control, provider integrity and accountability. [Source: iStock]
The signatories set out new arrangements for aged care governance that would strengthen aged care's independence, funding, quality control, provider integrity and accountability. [Source: iStock]

On Sunday 11 April, the 12 consumer organisations released their joint statement consisting of a pre-planned package of urgent reforms for the Federal Government to deliver on in the next 12-18 months that would build a higher quality aged care system.

The plan outlines changes that would ensure human rights for older Australians, treat older people for their diversity and capacities, allow greater control over their care and support, and deliver appropriate, safe and timely services, and fair value for their dollar.

Chief Executive of Council on the Ageing Australia (COTA), Ian Yates AM, says that the key actions requested by the signatory organisations include increased transparency from aged care providers, minimum staffing levels, wage increases for workers, stronger powers and a more versatile toolkit for an independent quality regulatory, and a new rights based Aged Care Act.

"The last thing Australians deserve is the Government kicking the can down the road on many of the key changes we need," says Mr Yates on behalf of the group.

"The Government cannot get away with cherry picking a few recommendations now but saying it will consider the rest later. That will not wash with the many hundreds of thousands of older Australians who are looking to this Government to deliver them hope that they, and their families, will enjoy a radically better aged care system than the one we have today.

"The Government must not delay reform. We are sending a clear message to the Morrison Government that older Australians expect action now."

Using the Royal Commission's Final Report as a basis for change, the signatories of the movement set out new arrangements for aged care governance that would strengthen aged care's independence, funding, quality control, provider integrity and accountability, while also securing great consumer influence in the system.

The consumer peak body group also recommended an Implementation Task Force that would drive the reforms necessary in Australia. This task force would consist of an Independent Chair and independent members, as well as senior Government officials.

Chief Executive Officer of National Seniors Australia, Professor John McCallum, says, "Much can be achieved in the next year to give older Australians genuine self-determination, hold providers accountable for failure to deliver quality care, to treat those who need support with dignity and respect, and to enable and reward excellence."

Other immediate actions that the group is calling for include:

  • Immediately increasing home care and home support funding; ensuring a maximum 30-day wait period for home care by no later than December 2022; and implementing a single Care at Home program that provides individualised care by 2023.

  • Require providers to publish real-time data on staffing, quality performance, financial information, and consumer experience.

  • Establish an Independent Pricing Authority for aged care.

  • Provide equitable access to health services including dental care, medication reviews, mental health services, allied health, and restorative care and reablement.

  • Abolish the Aged Care Approvals Round, bed licenses, and give residential care funding control to older people.

Mr Yates says, "In the coming year, the Morrison Government can give older Australians more choice, control and transparency in aged care than they have ever been allowed before.

"We recognise that the Government faces significant challenges in implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations in full, including the need for major budget funding and a major increase in workforce. But these must be met.

"This is Australia’s ‘line in the sand’ moment for giving us the aged care system we deserve and expect."

The consumer peak body includes COTA, National Seniors Australia, Dementia Australia, Older Persons Advocacy Network, Partners in Culturally Appropriate Care, Carers Australia, Independence Matters, LGBTIQ+ Health Australia, Elder Abuse Action Australia, RSL Australia, and Legacy Australia.

To view the joint statement from the consumer peak bodies, visit the COTA Australia website.

On Monday, industry peak body group, the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), also released their 15 point plan that they want to be adopted by the Government to ensure an improved aged care system.

Similar to the consumer peak bodies recommendations, the industry peaks identified four broad priority areas that the Federal Government should focus on - human rights, access and choice; workforce; transparency; and sustainability.

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