The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on 16 September 2018 and established on 8 October 2018.
It will primarily look at the quality of care provided in Residential and Home Aged Care to senior Australians, as well as ‘the way forward’ for the sector.
This will include delving into the important issue of how we care for people with dementia and younger people living in residential aged care.
The Royal Commission’s Terms of Reference were announced on 9 October 2018, following more than 5,000 submissions received from aged care consumers, families, carers, aged care workers, health professionals and providers.
The Honourable Richard Tracey AM RFD QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO have been appointed Commissioners for the Royal Commission.
Mr Tracey is a former judge of the Federal Court of Australia and Ms Briggs is a former Australian Public Service Commissioner.
Mr Tracey’s appointment was announced on 11 December, replacing original Commissioner, the Honourable Justice Joseph McGrath, who withdrew from his position due to personal family reasons.
A preliminary hearing will be held in Adelaide on 18 January 2019, (which was originally scheduled for 7 December 2018).
This will be followed by hearings involving the appearance of witnesses in Adelaide in February and March, and in other locations around Australia in the following months.
Details of upcoming hearings will be announced progressively during 2019 and a call for submissions from the general public will be made shortly.
The Royal Commission's interim report is to be provided by 31 October 2019, and its final report due by 30 April 2020.
Provider survey – Early submissions
As part of seeking key information to inform the Royal Commission, a letter has been sent to Australia’s 100 largest providers requesting them to respond to an eight-question survey by 7 January 2019.
Remaining providers have been given until 8 February 2019 to respond.
Although comprising only eight questions, we do understand that the survey contains three questions (one - substandard care, two - complaints and four – young people in aged care) that require extensive data collection.
The Commission is looking for detailed responses, but not more than 50 pages per service.
So we’d like to acknowledge the providers who will have a large job ahead in gathering together this information over the Christmas period.
Information provided under this request will be considered by the Royal Commission alongside submissions from the general public and stakeholders, data from statistical and regulatory agencies and any other evidence provided to the Commission.
The survey is an opportunity for the Royal Commission to gather information on a number of specific matters, and to give providers an opportunity to identify what areas they think need to be changed and how those areas might be changed.
Further information about the plans for submissions and hearings, can be found on the Royal Commission website.
The Royal Commission will provide an important voice and advocacy opportunity for our seniors, their families and our staff. Allowing these voices to be heard, and their experiences considered, is a critical step in being able to productively move aged care forward in Australia.
In moving forward, the Royal Commission is not starting from zero, much has already been done.
Numerous reviews into aged care have been conducted over the past decade. Many issues are well-known and many of the answers are already on the table.
Despite this, the Royal Commission has a very complex task in front of them.
They will receive large amounts of information on problems and issues within the system to examine, and these issues will need to be considered in an environment that is changing with new quality standards coming in from 1 July 2019.
The Royal Commission is going to have to find a way to delve deeply into each issue that is raised, going beneath the surface of the issue where popular reporting often stops, to consider the fundamental factors contributing to the problem.
Then we need the Royal Commission to outline the key next steps in our way forward in aged care reform, providing the Government with a mandate for change, but ultimately ensuring the health and wellbeing of our vulnerable senior Australians.
Most importantly, we need this Royal Commission to look beyond an aged care sector, and work to be a catalyst in changing how we view ageing in Australia, allowing us to commence a long term, well planned journey towards understanding what we need to do as a nation to best support positive ageing, rather than fearing it.