The Aged Care Royal Commission sets out a litany of failures by the government on aged care.
I am calling on the government to accept the Royal Commission’s recommendation for a complete transformation of the aged care system – not with words, but with action and funding.
Over the past 30 years, the Commonwealth government has overseen a slow collapse of the aged care system. And yet the Royal Commission stated that:
At times in this inquiry, it has felt like the Government’s main consideration was what was the minimum commitment it could get away with, rather than what should be done to sustain the aged care system so that it is enabled to deliver high quality and safe care.
This is completely unacceptable. The reform task set out by the Royal Commission is enormous – and the government’s response must be bold enough to meet that task.
For as long as I have the privilege of representing Indi, I will hold the government to account for the implementation of these recommendations. For Indi, five parts of the Royal Commission’s blueprint are especially important, and I intend to use my voice in Parliament to pursue these.
First, regional Australia needs equitable access to aged care.
The Royal Commission is clear that accessing aged care in regional Australia is vastly more difficult than in the cities. For those of us who live in regional Australia, this is not news.
The Royal Commission calls on the government to provide capital grants to build and upgrade residential aged care facilities with a priority on regional areas and regions with a demonstrated need for additional services – communities such as Bright which right now needs high level residential aged care.
It also calls on the government to actively identify locations in rural and regional Australia where private providers are failing to meet aged care needs, and to step in and provide those services itself. There are so many towns in Indi where private providers cannot meet the needs of our community – the government must heed this call and get on and provide the services we need.
Second, we must immediately provide a Home Care package to everyone who needs one.
The fact there are still 100,000 Australians waiting for a Home Care package is a national disgrace. The government insists it is already meeting this goal by adding more places. It is not. Half measures are unacceptable. The task is crystal clear – a Home Care package for everyone who needs one by the end of the year.
Third, the government must implement a star-rating system for aged care providers.
Right now, it is essentially impossible for people to see how well an aged care provider actually performs. The government must adopt the Commission’s recommendation to introduce a new set of quality standards so people can easily see how providers meet those standards through a clear and accessible star rating system.
Good providers have nothing to fear from transparency about their performance. Clear accountability will reward good providers and create the pressure for poor providers to lift their game. And ultimately, this is about creating a system that works for people, not providers.
Fourth, we must invest in a proper aged care workforce.
Australia needs urgent and ambitious action to train, attract and retain the skilled workforce needed to provide high-quality care. The Commission calls for a minimum Certificate III qualification for aged care workers, compulsory registration of aged care workers, a minimum of 200 minutes of care per day and a registered nurse onsite at all times.
To achieve this, we will need to train more nurses, allied health workers and personal care workers, and we will need to pay them more in order to attract them into the sector.
This will be essential in regional areas, where workforce issues are especially acute. If we implemented the recommendations of this report, it would create thousands of jobs for nurses, health and aged care workers in towns across regional Australia.
Finally, we must properly fund aged care.
The Commission is extremely clear that our aged care is broken because we put a cap on the amount of expenditure, and we ration out who gets to access care. Older Australians will continue to receive sub-standard care for as long as we starve them of the support they deserve.
We do not do this in any other area of our social welfare net. We do not cap the number of children who can attend school, the number of people who can access the NDIS, or who can see a doctor. We should extend that same fundamentally Australian principle of care to older Australians.
The Commission calls for the introduction of a levy on income tax to finance the aged care costs. I believe that this is a system that Australians would accept, but I call on the government to respond urgently to this proposal.
If the government rejects it, Australians are entitled to a clear explanation of why, and to a detailed proposal of how the government plans to fund aged care consistent with the principle of a universal right to high-quality and safe aged care.