The Aged Care Royal Commission: what to expect

The first part of the ABC’s Four Corners five-month special investigation into the aged care sector made for confronting viewing.

The day before the Four Corners report was aired, and no doubt in anticipation of the public reaction to that investigation, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the Commonwealth Government will request that the Governor General establish a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

There have been numerous inquiries and reviews in recent years, including some that are ongoing, relating to the aged care sector in Australia. However, as occurred with the Financial Services Royal Commission, the Aged Care Royal Commission will raise scrutiny of the sector to another level.

What can we expect to see emerge from the Aged Care Royal Commission?

The most significant issues facing aged care operators, staff, residents and family members with respect to the care of aged care residents (as well as younger people with disabilities living in aged care facilitates), which we expect will be the subject of the forthcoming Royal Commission, include:

  • management systems, staffing and organisational development
  • hygiene and sanitary conditions
  • quality of food
  • failures of care resulting in a lower standard of care or life expectancy
  • instances of abuse and reportable assaults (general, financial and sexual)
  • neglect (isolation)
  • restrictions on freedom and movement
  • use of restraints
  • theft of belongings and food

The challenges facing aged care operators and staff with residents who suffer dementia will also be addressed, with the Royal Commission likely to focus on the training and education standards of staff as well as the suitability and effectiveness of policies and procedures set by aged care operators.

Another issue will be the growing demand for an appropriately skilled and experienced workforce. A recent report from PwC highlighted that there will be 120,000 nurses and over 400,000 aged care workers required to meet the demands of Australia’s ageing population by 2040. This figure takes into account the expected needs in rural and remote areas, which will likely also be a focal point for the Royal Commission.

The Aged Care Royal Commission will primarily inquire into the quality of care provided in Residential and Home Aged Care to senior Australians, but its scope will also extend to cover young Australians with disabilities living in Residential Aged Care settings.

The Aged Care Royal Commission’s terms of reference

The Aged Care Royal Commission’s precise terms of reference will be determined following consultation with the aged care sector and the community. However, those terms are expected to include:

  • The quality of care provided to older Australians, and the extent of substandard care;
  • The challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care, particularly younger people with disabilities;
  • The challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia and addressing their care needs as they age;
  • The future challenges and opportunities for delivering aged care services in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia; and
  • Any other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary.

Hall & Wilcox’s experience in Royal Commissions and other Commissions of Inquiry

Hall & Wilcox has deep and substantial experience working with clients in Royal Commissions and other Commissions of Inquiry. We have recently assisted a number of clients involved in and appearing before the Financial Services Royal Commission, and have previously acted for clients in the Trade Union Royal Commission, Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and HIH Royal Commission (amongst others).


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