Last night, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the long awaited Terms of Reference for Australia’s Royal Commission into aged care.

Flanked by Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt, and Health Minister, Greg Hunt, the Prime Minister provided some forewarning on the subject matter that this inquiry will shed light on.

“I think the country is going to have to brace itself for some difficult stories,” he said. “But that’s part of the process of this royal commission, to confront these stories honestly.”

While the Royal Commission is welcomed by all Australians, years of perceived inadequacy by government and peak bodies have obviously taken their toll on the public’s trust in the leadership of the sector.

The Prime Minister himself acknowledged these sentiments, remarking that the commission would be “future-focused,” but recognising that they would also have to “learn from the mistakes of the past,” in order to make the endeavour a successful one.  

While the commission is obviously a positive step forward, it’s definitely only part of the problem that our elderly face. Societal attitudes regarding the value of elderly people are far from where they should be.

With some citizens failing to realise that an aged care facility should play a part in supporting a loved one, but will never fulfil the role of becoming their complete support system.  

Prime Minister Morrison addressed these concerns, insisting that he wanted to instil a national “culture of respect” towards the elderly.

And that “The royal commission will be the first step in re-establishing the trust that loved ones will be treated with dignity and with respect.”

Western Australian supreme court justice, Joseph McGrath, and former Australian public service commissioner Lynelle Briggs have been appointed as the royal commissioners.

McGrath was the former WA Director of Public Prosecutions as well as a Senior Assistant Director at the Commonwealth DPP, while Briggs was Chief Executive of Medicare Australia and served as the Public Service Commissioner for 5 years.

The Royal Commission will be based in Adelaide and undertaking hearings from around the country, as well as evidence via video.

Following more than 5,100 submissions, four national roundtables and consultation with the medical and aged care professions, the terms of reference for the Royal Commission are as follows:

  • Quality and safety including the extent of substandard care.
  • How to best deliver care services to people with disabilities residing in aged care facilities including younger people.
  • How to best deliver care to the increasing number of Australians living with dementia.
  • The future challenges and opportunities for delivering accessible, affordable and high quality aged care services, including people’s desire to remain living at home as they age, and aged care in rural, regional and remote Australia.
  • What the Government, the aged care sector, Australian families and the wider community can do to strengthen care services to ensure quality and safety.
  • How to allow people greater choice, control and independence and how to improve engagement with families and carers.
  • How to best deliver sustainable aged care services through innovative care and investment in the aged care workforce and infrastructure.
  • Any matters that the Commissioners believe is relevant to their inquiry.

The terms of the Royal Commission state that commissioners will examine the current state of aged care within Australia, including the welfare of disabled residents and younger people.

As well as the issues facing those living with dementia and those in need of assistance who want to reside in their own homes.

The commission will also look at providing a sustainable funding model for those providing care as well as care facilities.

The commission will release an interim report on 31 October 2019, with the final report due on the 30th of April 2020.

Prime Minister Morrison expects that the commissions work would be completed within the time limits above but did state that “if more time is needed and is requested, more time is always given.”

While attitudes towards this announcement vary between relief and scepticism, it’s important to note that the time to speak up against any concerns or wrongdoings is currently upon us.

Many within the industry who have dedicated their entire careers to enriching the lives of the elderly, have waited for decades to have their chance to speak.

This is your chance to mobilise with the friends and families of the unheard elderly and speak for them together, loudly, and as one.

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