The Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians, Senator Richard Colbeck, has announced the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be extended for six months.

The government has agreed to the Royal Commission’s request for a six-month extension so it can to continue hearing evidence from around Australia and continue to conduct its deliberations, Mr Colbeck said.

Aged care remains “front and centre” of the government’s agenda, he said.

“It is important that our aged care sector continues to provide high quality care and that we understand where we can make improvements,” he said.

Government already making changes

Mr Colbeck said the government is already making changes to the aged care sector, even as the royal commission is underway. 

“The Government has continued to implement reforms while the commission progresses… including the commencement of new Aged Care Quality Standards and Charter of Aged Care Rights and strengthened provisions around the use of restraints,” he said.

An additional commissioner, the Hon Gaetano (Tony) Pagone QC, has also been appointed.

Funding, education needed

Aged & Community Services Australia (ACSA), the peak body for the aged care sector, says the extension of the Royal Commission is welcome.

“It’s very important to hear when and how things have gone wrong but we also need specific discussions and recommendations about how government, providers and the community can work together to better plan and provide for our ageing population,” said ACSA CEO, Patricia Sparrow.

Ms Sparrow called for changes to funding, and “large-scale” community education about ageing and aged care.

Don’t wait for reform

Julie Collins MP, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, said Labor “respects” the work of the royal commission but reform should not wait until after the royal commission hands down its findings.

“The Liberals cannot use this extension as an excuse to continue failing older Australians in aged care,” she said.

“The Liberals don’t need the Royal Commission’s final report to act on the things we know are wrong today.

“With the interim report from the Royal Commission due in October and dozens of reports and recommendations already on its desk there is plenty the Government needs to do now,” Ms Collins said.

Ms Collins said issues such as the waiting list for home care, lack of qualified staff, low pay, and negative media reports about mistreatment and neglect in aged care, are all issues that need to be addressed.

LASA calls for “urgent action”

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) welcomed the announcements, said the extra time will allow for “a deeper investigation of the many complex issues in aged care and their solutions”.  

But LASA CEO, Sean Rooney, said there are critical issues facing the sector now that need to be addressed.

“We cannot delay action on making the aged care system better right now, by addressing the key issues of access to services, funding of services, quality of services and supporting the workforce that delivers these services

“Our Members are telling us that their ability to consistently deliver high standards of care and service that older Australians expect and deserve are being constrained by continued financial pressure,” Mr Rooney said. 

“Many organisations are likely to reduce services, reduce staffing and/or reduce investment without funding relief.

“Urgent action – before Christmas this year – is required to avert the increasing risk of service failures, job losses and missed care while the Royal Commission considers longer term reforms,” he said.

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