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Consumer peaks unite, propose industry reform

Twelve aged care consumer peak organisations have come together and issued a joint plan for reform of the aged care sector.

Led by the Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the groups issued a response to the royal commission's final report and identified key areas for fixing aged care that they say the federal government must implement in the upcoming budget.

Crucially, they want the reforms to be put in place within 12-18 months. 

“The last thing Australians deserve is the government kicking the can down the road on many of the key changes we need,” said Ian Yates, chief executive of COTA Australia, on behalf of the group.

Among the changes the signatory organisations want to see implemented are increased transparency from aged care providers, minimum staffing levels, wage increases for workers, stronger powers and a more versatile toolkit for an independent quality regulator, and a new rights-based Aged Care Act.

The group also calls for the establishment of an Independent Pricing Authority for aged care, and they want a maximum 30-day wait period for home care by no later than December 2022, as well as the implementation of a single Care at Home program that provides individualized care by 2023.

“The Government cannot get away with cherry picking a few recommendations now but saying it will consider the rest later. That will not wash with the many hundreds of thousands of older Australians who are looking to this government to deliver them hope that they, and their families, will enjoy a radically better aged care system than the one we have today," Yates said.

“The government must not delay reform. We are sending a clear message to the Morrison Government that older Australians expect action now.”

The signatories, which also include Dementia Australia and Carers Australia, have based their recommendations on the royal commission report on points such as funding, quality control, provider integrity and accountability. And they recommend making an Implementation Task Force to drive the reforms with an independent chair and independent members, as well as senior government officials.

“Much can be achieved in the next year to give older Australians genuine self-determination, hold providers accountable for failure to deliver quality care, to treat those who need support with dignity and respect, and to enable and reward excellence,” said National Seniors Australia CEO Professor John McCallum.

Yates said: “In the coming year, the Morrison Government can give older Australians more choice, control and transparency in aged care than they have ever been allowed before.

“We recognise that the government faces significant challenges in implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations in full, including the need for major budget funding and a major increase in workforce. But these must be met. This is Australia’s ‘line in the sand’ moment for giving us the aged care system we deserve and expect.”

Key reforms:

• Require providers to publish real-time data on staffing, quality performance, financial information, and consumer experience.

• Abolish the Aged Care Approvals Round/bed licenses and give older people control of their residential care funding and put some competitive pressure on poor providers.

• Require a commitment to respecting diversity throughout aged care - in standards, in training, in accountability and in access pathways and service design, inclusive of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, CALD, LGBTI and rural communities and people living with dementia, with a mandatory Diversity Framework and Action Plans.

• Commit to a timetable detailing when reforms will be commenced and implemented, and to co-designing them with older Australians.

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