When the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report was released last October, Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck’s claim that he was “shocked” by the report was troubling, to say the least.

The Interim Report, titled Neglect, was both candid and scathing in its assessment of the Australian aged care sector, but all of the issues raised within the report’s findings have been well documented over the years and are common knowledge to industry insiders.

Research from the Dieticians Association of Australia contained within the Interim Report estimated that somewhere between 22-50% of people living in residential aged care are malnourished.

But when questioned by NSW Senator Kristina Keneally during yesterday’s Senate Question Time, it seemed Minister Colbeck was unaware of this alarming statistic.

“I haven’t had that particular statistic put forward to me specifically,” said Mr. Colbeck, “I don’t believe if that is the case, I don’t believe if that’s the case.”

Mr. Colbeck’s bumbling and uninformed response is merely one of a long list of red flags by the Morrison Government who, from a public perspective, seems uninterested in improving the state of the aged care industry.

Shadow Minister for Ageing and Seniors, Julie Collins MP, shared her concerns regarding the Morrison Government and Minister Colbeck with HelloCare earlier today.

“How can anyone have any faith in the Minister’s ability to respond to the Royal Commission’s final recommendations when it seems he hasn’t even read the interim report? This statistic was shocking and should have been pretty memorable,” said Ms Collins.

 “It does not reflect well on the Minister or the Government that he is not aware, or doesn’t believe, the shockingly high rates of malnutrition in aged care.”

The announcement of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in late 2018 was a relief to many Australian families and industry insiders who were aware of the poor state of aged care in this country. 

But the government’s inability to adequately respond, and willingness to stifle any attempt to bring more transparency to the sector have destroyed the faith of a public who hoped that the Royal Commission would be a catalyst for meaningful and positive change.

Earlier this week the federal government blocked an amendment to new laws that could have forced aged care providers to reveal how much they spend on food and staff and how much of their funding goes to parent organisations.

The government’s reasoning for voting against moves for transparency in the sector have always revolved around the notion of waiting for the Royal Commission’s final report before making any major reforms.

However, that did not stop the Government from putting the publicly-funded Aged Care Assessment system out to tender, which is nothing short of ridiculous when you consider the potential for conflict of interest it creates.

Making people who sell aged care services responsible for assessing what services an older person needs is basically like giving your bank account details to a used car salesman and asking them to pick the car for you.

A recent poll on HelloCare revealed that 91% of our audience believes that the Royal Commission will not result in any real improvements to aged care, and when you look at the incestuous swamp of familiar faces that influence decision making, it’s hard to disagree.

“It is hardly surprising the Government is not supportive of measures to improve transparency in aged care,” said Ms. Collins.

“Scott Morrison has no plan to fix the crisis in Australia’s aged care system, but he does have a plan to privatise aged care assessments. This makes no sense.”

“The Morrison Government is allergic to transparency and is loose with the truth.”

The hopes of our rapidly ageing nation hinge on the intentions of a government that is more interested in the appeasing lobbyists and corporations in the aged care industry than improving the lives of older people.

Anyone waiting for meaningful change would not be advised to hold their breath.


Photo courtesy of iStock: credit Spiderstock

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