The prime minister has said he will boost funding to aged care in the next mid-year budget update, but would not be drawn on how much the government will commit.

His commitment comes in the wake of the Royal Commission’s damning interim report on aged sector, which outlined three reforms that could be undertaken immediately.

Speaking to 3AW radio, Mr Morrison said he met with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck last night after the report was released. Aged care will receive extra funding by Christmas, Mr Morrison said.

The industry is “on notice”: Minister

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said he has been “shocked” by the findings of the Royal Commission.

He said the industry is “on notice” and that “attitudinal change” is needed.

“It is a necessary process because it gives me as minister the imprimatur to drive reform and change though government, through industry, and importantly through the community,” he said.

“Energy and hope”

Matthew Richter, CEO of The Aged Care Guild, said reading the contents of the report was difficult. 

“It felt quite horrible,” he told HelloCare. “I walked out of the room at the commission and asked myself ‘have I done all I can to be pushing this industry in the right direction?’ 

But Mr Richater said, “If the right people can stand up and drive this and work with the commission, and with really strong discussion with the community about what we need to do, then that does give me some energy and hope.”

“That’s going to be a challenge because this is a compliance focused system, it’s not a human focused system and there’s a real fear of failing out there. We’ve got to get over that, and be a bit brave,” he said.

Mr Richter said he had seen warning signs in the industry, such as the rise in complaints, high staff turnover, increasing compliance and quality and safety issues, and poor financial performance.

“What this report has made clear is the situation on the ground is much worse than anyone has been talking about, and it highlights we have to take the issue seriously and take on serious reform,” he said.

He said the Aged Care Act was written in 1997. Society has changed since then, but Australia has allowed its aged care system to “drift”. 
Government knows the answers for immediate reforms

Dr Juanita Westbury, researcher with the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, said the report was “detailed”, “bold” and “accurate”.

“It’s been a measured but hard-hitting response,” she told HelloCare.

She thanked the commissioners and their team for closely examining the issues she presented to the royal commission around the use of restrictive practices in aged care.

“They really expressed concern about the new legislation that has been introduced and is now being challenged by a Joint Parliamentary Committee of Human Rights,” she said.

Ms Breen said she’d be surprised if the review doesn’t result in changes after comments from the Royal Commission and earlier comments from Human Rights Watch.

She welcomed the commissioners’ recommendation that the government respond to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care.

To those who say the matter is not easy to solve, Ms Breen says. “I beg to differ.”

The RedUse program Ms Breen developed is “simple and effective” and “ready to go”, she said. 

“It just requires the government making aged care a priority.”

Planning must start now: COTA

Ian Yates said the interim report acknowledges the situation in aged care is worse than people have been acknowledging.

“The Royal Commission needed to be forthright about some things that we and others have talked about for a long time, which is not that the majority of the sector is doing nasty things to people, but that it is much more widespread than governments or provider representatives have ever been prepared to acknowledge,” he told HelloCare.

“The lived experience of older Australians over many years, has been quite consistent, that these bad things happen and that the architecture, or the way the aged care system is organised, is such that it commoditises, institutionalises, and depersonalises you, even if you are receiving high quality care. 

“The commission has nailed that,” he said.

“One of the most damning things the Royal Commission said is government knows the answers to lots of these things. It’s had report after report after report that’s told them, and it’s played around at the edges and then hasn’t done the core things,” he said.

He agreed that ageism underpins the failings of the aged care system in Australia.

He said he would like COTA to work with the Royal Commission and providers to develop an interim plan, but that government has to be the driver of change.

“I’m more optimistic that we might get meaningful change out of this process than I have been out of some of the previous reports and reviews,” he said.

A prompt for action

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the interim report is a signal for urgent changes to the aged care system.

“While the Royal Commission identifies the need for ‘a fundamental overhaul of the design, objectives, regulation and funding of aged care’, the report must prompt action to improve the aged care system now,” Mr Rooney said in a statement.

“Our sector is steadfast in our commitment to do better and to hold to account any individual or organisation that is either unwilling or unable to meet industry standards and community expectations.”

The system is “struggling”

The Aged Care Commissioner, Janet Anderson, told ABC radio the aged care system is “struggling” and much more work is required.

“The report shows very clearly there is work to do on a number of levels. It calls to question what society thinks about older Australians and the way in which we treat them, the respect and dignity we accord them in their later years,” she said.

“What we have is a sector that, in some parts, is struggling. And we see that,” she said.

“We come with our sleeves rolled up,” Ms Anderson told the ABC.

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