Australia

Australia's aged care system 'a shocking tale of neglect', royal commission says

The aged care royal commission's interim report has declared the country's aged care system a 'shocking tale of neglect'.

Australia's aged care system is a shocking tale of neglect, royal commissioners say.

The aged care royal commissioners say aged care services are underfunded, mostly poorly managed and all too often unsafe and seemingly uncaring.

They want urgent action to provide more support to allow older Australians to remain in their homes, address the over-use of chemical restraints in aged care and stop younger people with disabilities being stuck in aged care.

The commission's interim report released on Thursday, titled Neglect, found the system fails to meet the needs of older, and often very vulnerable, people.

The commissioners said the system does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care for older people, and is unkind and uncaring towards them.

"It is a shocking tale of neglect," commissioners Richard Tracey - who died earlier this month - and Lynelle Briggs wrote.

The system is woefully inadequate, they said.

"The neglect that we have found in this royal commission to date is far from the best that can be done.

"Rather, it is a sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation."

The commission plans to recommend a fundamental overhaul of the aged care system in its final report.

Stakeholders have repeatedly called for significant increases in government funding to address the problems in the sector, without waiting for the final report in November 2020.

The commissioners said short-term solutions at best temporarily stave off the worst problems and, at worst, produce another set of unintended outcomes requiring further inquiries and reviews and further injections of public funds, without addressing the underlying causal factors.

"These limited interventions are not enough to deliver an aged care system that meets the needs of older people."

However, it said there was no reason to delay action in reducing the waiting list for home care packages, responding to the over-reliance on chemical restraints and stopping the flow of younger people with disability going into aged care.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the inquiry has given older Australians "an important voice".

"What we have been is shocked at the extent of what we've found. But importantly, what's happened is that this process has given senior Australians ... an important voice in how they receive aged care and what might happen into the future," he said.

Labor's aged care spokesperson Julie Collins said "it is shameful that in a wealthy country like Australia older people can't get the care they need".

Leading Age Care Services Australia, the national peak body representing all providers of age services, said the interim report is “a wake-up for the entire sector”.

“The sector has been working diligently throughout the entire royal commission process to forensically examine the issues that have been identified and to work through the things we can be doing right now to address those shortcomings,” CEO Sean Rooney said.

Richard Colbeck speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
Richard Colbeck speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
AAP

Anglicare Australia also described the interim report as a “wake-up”.

“We need a national commitment to end these years of neglect, and make the profound investment needed to build a system that will value people and care for them properly,” Acting Executive Director Roland Manderson said.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said it is now clear "successive governments have done nothing to fix the very serious and grave problems afflicting aged care for well over twenty years".

But, the CPSA said, the interim report has failed to identify the reasons for government inaction.

"While those reasons remain hidden, the problems in aged care cannot be resolved,” CPSA Policy Manager Paul Versteege said.

Additional reporting by Evan Young.

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