Bill Shorten has indicated that he will “consider” a Royal Commission into the aged care sector, after damning evidence about the finance industry has been brought to light by the banking royal commission which he supported.

On last night’s episode of the ABC’s Q&A, the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, responded to a question from the audience about aged care, shedding light on aged care policies he could take to the next election.

Stewart Johnston asked Mr Shorten, “Mr Shorten, my mum was one of the many victims of abuse at the now closed Oakden Aged Care Facility here in South Australia. Multiple enquiries confirm there is a national crisis in aged care with our most vulnerable suffering abuse, neglect, and inadequate care. The entire aged care Act needs overhauling, and a Royal Commission considered to truly expose this sector and fix it.

“Mr Shorten, will you support this call as proactively and determinedly as you did with the Banking Royal Commission and implement it if elected and return Australia back to the status of caring for our most vulnerable and how we should be?”

Mr Shorten agreed there is a “crisis” in aged care. He said the current aged care quality standards “aren’t working”, the inspection system hasn’t been successful, and that he would make dementia a key component of aged care policy, not just an add on.

He did not commit to a Royal Commission, but said he would “consider” one, and would “consult” with his colleagues on the idea.

Mr Shorten said he would “look after the aged care workforce”, in particular in terms of pay and safety ratios.

Mr Shorten said if his party is elected to government, they will put more money into aged care. “We’ve got to provide more money for aged care,” he said.

Mr Shorten disputed the claim the government funded more places in aged care in the last federal budget.

“They actually just took them [places] from residential care and transferred them into home care,” he said.

“Labor is lying”: Aged Care Minster

“Labor is lying on aged care funding,” said Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt.

“What they [Labor] cannot deny is that the Turnbull Government is delivering a $5 billion funding boost for aged care for older Australians,” he said.

“Labor gutted aged care when they were last in charge, ripping millions out to bolster their bottom line.

“Under the Turnbull Government’s latest Budget, funding is growing from $18 billion in 2017-18 to $23 billion in 2021-22 – a record investment totalling $86 billion.

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“Overall, lower-level and high-level home care packages will rise to 151,000 – up from 87,000 – because there is growing demand from older Australians who understandably want to remain living in their own homes from as long as they can.

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“Thanks to the Government’s funding boost, the number of high-level home care packages will rise by 86 per cent to 74,000 over the next five years. Residential care places will also grow, by almost 30,000.”

Minister Wyatt said Labor “ripped” $9 million out of the aged care sector in the 2010-11 Budget, and in 2011-12 they removed another $211.7 million. In the 2012-13 budget, Labor cut residential care places.

No evidence ratios increase quality of care: Minister

“There is no clear evidence or research that suggests implementing nurse or staff to patient ratios will actually increase the quality of care,” the Minister said.

“It should also be noted that the disgraced Oakden facility had one of  the highest ratios of nurses to patients, yet we saw some of the most horrendous neglect and abuse occur.”

Government focussing on quality and safety

The Minister said the government “will not compromise” on the aged care quality and safety. Unannounced audits of aged care facilities became law in March, and the government is currently establishing a new and independent Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission to be up and running by 1 January 2019. The Commission is intended to be “a tough cop on the beat, which will include a new Serious Incident Response Team.”

The Minister said he established a workforce taskforce last November to ensure a strong supply and adequate provision of appropriately trained, skilled and resourced aged care staff.

“A new Industry Reference Committee (IRC) is also currently being formed to tackle critical skills and workforce issues identified by the Taskforce,” said the Minister.

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