Aged Care Royal Commission releases interim report cataloguing neglect

On 31 October, the Royal Commission into Aged Care quality and safety handed down its interim report. Titled Neglect, it was a deeply upsetting story. But few aged care workers could profess – as did Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck – that it was shocking. The dreadful conditions under which aged care workers are expected to do their jobs are simply too widely documented for the Minister responsible to claim ignorance.

The interim report identifies three areas requiring immediate action, namely:

  •  To provide more Home Care Packages to reduce the waiting list for higher level care at home
  •  To respond to the significant over-reliance on chemical restraint in aged care, including through the seventh Community Pharmacy Agreement
  • To stop the flow of younger people with a disability going into aged care, and speed up the process of getting out those young people who are already in care.

The report found that older Australians who should be enjoying high-quality care, either in residential care or in their homes, have been victim to every kind of indignity, injustice and discomfort. It went some way towards apportioning blame, but not far enough. While regulatory processes do need tightening to prevent exploitation on the part of providers, the number one culprit needs to be clearly identified.

The truth is that the Federal Government has stripped over $2.1 billion from Aged Care funding in recent years – much of it while Scott Morrison, current Prime Minister, was Treasurer. Aged care workers are trying to do too much with too little.

The Government’s response

On November 25, the Morrison Government announced its response to the interim report. Unfortunately, the commitment they gave is woefully inadequate. They pledged $537 million to address the recommendations of the report – a mere fraction of the billions they have taken out of the Aged Care budget in recent years.The additional 10,000 places for home care packages they’ve announced won’t come close to providing the services our elderly desperately need. It’s not even 10% of the current shortfall in home packages. Meanwhile, 16,000 older Australians died last year waiting for home care packages.

A measly $10 million for training over two years is a drop in the ocean. We need a serious commitment to ensure that our aged care workforce can provide the best possible care to older Australians – not pocket change from a Government that couldn’t care less.

Lastly, the Government announced nothing to address the crisis in residential aged care – nothing at all to help fix the desperate understaffing and underresourcing that HSU members are only too familiar with.

It’s clear that Scott Morrison is hoping the issues in aged care will go away. Well, they’re not going to, and neither are we.
The HSU has vowed to step up its campaign to protect older people in care and to fight for meaningful, fairly-paid jobs for aged care workers, with proper training and career progression.

We support the report’s recommendations, but the real issue can’t be ignored: each and every improvement to the aged care system requires an urgent increase in resourcing, staffing – and funding.

Until the Government admits that older Australians are worth spending money on, we are stuck with a broken system.

It’s time for all members to get involved in our fight for something bigger and better.

The next 12 months until the Royal Commission’s final report is released will be crucial. We need to make sure that the report reflects the reality of aged care and makes the right recommendations to fix it. Even more importantly, we need to make sure the Government takes action on the recommendations.

Every conversation is an opportunity to join someone up to our fight. This is our chance. Let’s fight for an aged care system we can be proud of.