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COVID-19 delays Royal Commission final report

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will now deliver its final report by 26 February 2021, three and a half months later than previously scheduled, due to the impact of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the suspension of Royal Commission hearings (as well as workshops and group consultations) in March due to the pandemic had reduced the ability to engage with stakeholders.

“While these delays have been caused by unprecedented circumstances, we’re committed to ensuring the Royal Commission has the time and resources it needs to do its important work,” Mr Morrison said.

Upcoming hearings

The Commission’s first hearing since March was held in Melbourne from 15 to 17 July 2020, on mental health, oral health and allied health care in aged care provision.

This will be followed by two Sydney hearings in August.

PM Scott Morrison

As part of its inquiry, the Royal Commission put out a call in April for public submissions from the general public and organisations relating to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on residential aged care and home care, including responses from the sector and governments. The hearing into this matter will be held in Sydney from Monday 10 August to Thursday 13 August 2020.

The Commissioners say that as well as seeking to understand the impact of the pandemic upon older Australians, their families and their carers in aged care facilities and receiving home care, they hope to establish the lessons for responding to future pandemics of infectious disease outbreaks.

A second Sydney hearing will run from the afternoon of Thursday 13 August to Friday 14 August 2020, focusing on aged care accommodation.

There is no public access at these hearings and people are encouraged to follow live on the Royal Commission webcast.

Lynelle Briggs AO

Tony Pagone QC

Support for increased aged care funding

Landmark new research by Flinders University shows Australians strongly support increased funding to ensure universal access to high-quality aged care services in the future.

The research is the first of its kind internationally and was conducted for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. Based on a survey of 10,000 adults not currently using aged care services, its findings are presented in Research Paper 6 – Australia’s Aged Care System: Assessing The Views And Preferences Of The General Public For Quality Of Care And Future Funding.

The Royal Commissioners, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Lynelle Briggs AO (pictured), say the research confirms Australians want high-quality aged care to be delivered and accept more funding is part of the solution. The Royal Commission’s interim report found that a fundamental overhaul of the design, objectives, regulation and funding of aged care in Australia is required. Societal barriers to the acceptance of reform were identified as an important area of future investigation.

Nearly 90% of the people who participated in the research agreed that the Government should provide higher funding for aged care services. Almost 60% agreed there should be a reallocation of public expenditure to aged care. On average, those people thought the share of public expenditure to aged care should be doubled.

The majority of people said they would be willing to make co-contribution payments if they needed to access aged care services in the future.

The majority of current income taxpayers said they would also be willing to pay higher tax to fund aged care adequately.

Study participants in the study felt the most important attributes of satisfactory quality aged care are being treated with respect and dignity, aged care staff having appropriate skills and training, and receiving the health and wellbeing services they need. The most important attributes to elevate from satisfactory to high/very high quality are the ability to lodge complaints with confidence that appropriate action will be taken, followed by sufficient, and skilled and qualified, aged care staffing, and health and wellbeing services. Being supported to make your own decisions about care and services was among the less influential characteristics, even though this is a central tenet of the current aged care system.

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