The Australian government has announced a $452.2 million raft of measures as an immediate response to the findings of the royal commission into aged care, as it sets out to reform the sector.
The royal commission has made 148 recommendations to the Morrison government, including new laws to protect the rights of elderly people and increased regulator powers.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said senior Australians need to be treated with respect, care, and dignity and have access to quality care as they age. He said the findings provided the government with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the system.
“I called this Royal Commission to ensure our oldest and most frail Australians could receive the respect and care that supports their dignity and recognises the contribution that they have made to society,” Morrison said. “I warned, when I called the Royal Commission, there will be stories that will be hard to hear. And that has been the case.”
“It will test my government, the budget, and test the parliament,” he told reporters in Sydney on March 1. “It will test the way in which we are prepared to deal with this issue.”
The government’s response will be shaped by five broad key pillars of home care; residential aged care quality and safety, residential aged care services and sustainability; workforce; and governance.
The package includes greater oversight of home care packages, costing $18.4 million. This will consist of a program of audits of home care providers to reduce unjustified administrative charges and better fraud controls.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said $18 million would go towards stricter oversight of the government’s home care packages, which allow older Australians to continue living at home with extra support.
The government will spend $32 million to improve the quality of aged care providers and expand the powers for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, which includes a “senior restraint practitioner”, to boost regulation of physical and chemical restraints.
The package will also provide residential care temporary financial support, costing $279.9 million, as a continuation of the 30 percent rise in homeless and viability supplements until the end of June, and supply targeted support for residential aged care providers in financial stress.
An injection of $91.8 million will be spent to attract 18,000 job seekers to enter the home and residential aged care workforce.
A further $30.1 million will be provided for governance training for aged home board members to improve quality standards and include an overhaul of the Aged Care Act, which has been in place since 1997.
Morrison delivered an initial response to the royal commission on March 1, which published the eight-volume report. The government has promised a complete response by the end of May.
Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the royal commission had made him question how the aged care system works in Australia.
“We need to look at a fundamental reform of the system,” he said.
The federal opposition said it will take time to go through the royal commission’s final report and recommendations.
The opposition’s aged care spokeswoman Clare O’Neil is worried the government won’t fix the sector.
“I hope with all my heart that the government actually sees this as an opportunity to do the right thing, after eight years of neglecting this sector, cutting $1.7 billion out of it,” she told reporters in Melbourne.
“What I heard from Scott Morrison didn’t give me a lot of hope … this is the person who cut funding to the sector and then turned around surprised when standards slipped.”
The final report was released on March 1 after two years of the inquiry hearing harrowing tales of neglect across Australia.
AAP contributed to this article.