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Royal commission finds only one-quarter of people in aged care feel needs are met, final hearing approaches

Only a quarter of residential aged care and home care recipients feel their care needs are “always” met, according to a new survey released by the Royal Commission ahead of its final hearing on Thursday.

The survey found that 39 per cent of people in residential care and 32.5 per cent in home care feel their care needs are “mostly met”, while 33.4 per cent of people in residential care and 44.1 per cent in home care say that their care need are “sometimes”, “rarely” or “never” met.

The surveys – conducted by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) – found a number of key areas of concern among aged care recipients. Most common responses included staffing, which includes lack of staff, call bells not being answered, high rates of staff turnover, inadequate training, and agency staff not knowing the resident or their needs.

For home care residents, nearly 50 per cent of respondents said their biggest concerns are finance and administration, which includes lack of value-for-money, fee transparency, service coordination and rostering.

NARI’s findings have been included in two research papers undertaken on behalf of the Royal Commission. They found that many of the concerns people have about their aged care are not raised as official complaints with their providers as they don’t believe anything will change.

People in aged care often believe that their complaints are minor and don’t want to be a nuisance. NARI found that only one per cent of concerns that are raised officially are then raised with the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and less than half are resolved to the satisfaction of the care recipient.

The final hearing of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be held this week with final submissions from the counsel assisting heard on 22 and 23 October.

Senior Counsel Assisting, Peter Gray QC and Peter Rozen QC, will both present submissions to commissioners Pagone and Briggs, and intend to make recommendations to the commission on “material aspects of the work of the Royal Commission save for long-term financing options. A process of consultation on financing options remains in progress.”

The royal commission was announced in September 2018 by Prime minister Scott Morrison after a series of revelations by the ABC about the mistreatment of aged care residents nationwide.

The commission handed down its interim report on October 31 2019 and intended to hand down a final report by 30 April 2020.

The scope of the aged care crisis alongside the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed that date back, although the commissioners have made no secret of how they view the aged care system in its current form.

The interim report, tilted simply Neglect, scorched the aged care sector with language shorn of any legalese, direct and to the point.

Describing aged care as a “cruel and harmful system”, the commissioners said that Australians “owe it to our parents, our grandparents, our partners, our friends. We owe it to strangers. We owe it to future generations. Older people deserve so much more.”

The current system is “designed around transactions, not relationships or care”, it said and “minimises the voices of people receiving care and their loved ones”.

The commissioners also said that the sector “lacks fundamental transparency” and called out certain providers who have appeared at the commission as “belligerent in their ignorance of what is happening in the facilities for which they are responsible”.

The aged care system needs a “reality check” and to focus less on acting like an “industry” and a “market” force which views people as “clients” and “consumers”.

The commission intends to hand down its final report on 26 February 2021.

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