The Royal Commission into aged care quality and safety has found that ‘the Australian aged care system is ‘unacceptable and unsustainable’.

The condition of our aged care system reflects ‘systemic failures’ over several decades with the Royal Commissioners stating that ‘we must all take responsibility for fixing’ if we are to avoid ‘a repetition of the tragedy of the past’.

That is, successive inquiries and reviews that have led to little change in the outcomes realised for older Australians who depend on the aged care system for care, services and support.

The Prime Minister said the report is “well-considered, it’s honest, it’s compassionate, it’s comprehensive, it’s ambitious, it’s candid” and also a “challenging but achievable road to reform”.

The Prime Minister’s legacy will be measured by his overall and far-reaching response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations and we are determined as a sector to see his Government deliver.

He has the opportunity to succeed where other governments have desperately failed, realising a world-leading aged care system, now and into the future.

To realise the necessary transformation of the aged care system we must focus on putting the needs of older Australians at the centre.

This means the aged care system must ensure that older people – who built our nation – have an entitlement to, and can receive, high-quality aged care and support.

This must be safe, timely and has to assist older people to live an active, self-determined and meaningful life in a safe and caring environment that allows for dignified old age.

The Royal Commission recommendations include: New governing of aged care; greatly improved access to home and residential care; extensive workforce supports and care expansion; quality initiatives and regulation; long-term funding arrangements; transparency, information, accountability and reporting; data, research, innovation and translation; and strong implementation.

A truly transformed, fit for purpose aged care system will be defined by:

  • Rights – older persons truly at the centre, with access to need, demand, choice and care
  • Quality – more staff, better skills and pay, a national workforce register, expanded scope of integrated and holistic services, revised quality standards, a new regulator, and effective governance oversight, with appropriate reporting and compliance systems and processes
  • Transparency – star ratings systems to inform choice, clinical indicators to reflect care outcomes, improved financial reporting to determine value for money
  • Sustainability – an independent pricing authority, means testing and considering user pays who have the ability to contribute to the costs of their care, and ensuring the subsidies paid to providers reflect the true costs of delivering high quality care.

All this will not happen without adequate levels of funding. The Royal Commission has also highlighted that Australia currently spends less than half of what comparable countries do on aged care (1.2% vs 2.5% of GDP).

The Government must provide a clearly articulated commitment in the upcoming Budget backed up with a roadmap and a timetable to achieve the required transformation over the coming years.

However, we cannot do this alone and that is why Leading Age Services Australia, the largest representative organisation of aged care and retirement living, is a committed member of the Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC).

The AACC is conducting a national campaign, with a 15-point plan covering four key areas from the Royal Commission:

  1. Human rights, access and choice
  2. Workforce
  3. Transparency
  4. Sustainability

The Royal Commission has provided Australia with once-in-a-generation opportunity to address systemic issues and realise a re-imagined aged care system.

Issues identified have long been known and system setting solutions are in the hands of government to resolve, with lots of pressure from the AACC, consumer groups, unions, age service operators, older Australians and their families.

Some providers are at fault and they must address their shortcomings or exit the system.

Once Government responds, providers will need to adapt and transform in response, or risk being left behind.

The value we place on caring for older Australians is fundamental to our society – so let us as a nation value this privilege.

Let us support and enable the people and services that have this privilege to do it well and let us inspire others right across the nation to share in this privilege.