Scene set for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Royal Commission - How to be prepared

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On 9 October 2018, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, and Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care, Ken Wyatt, confirmed that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has been formally established by the Governor General.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety places a focus on how Australia, as a country, ensures that there is a clear policy framework in place to protect those most vulnerable in our society.

The theme of "conduct below community expectations", a term coined at the outset of the financial services Royal Commission, is emerging as the thread that links Australia's recent and current public inquiries.

Key themes of the Terms of Reference

The Terms of Reference recognise the importance of the contribution of older Australians to society and the need to build a culture of respect for ageing and older persons, as well as placing an emphasis on diversifying the way aged care services are delivered. It also brings to the fore the importance of the way those with dementia and disabilities are cared for, including young people in aged care facilities.

The final Terms of Reference have picked up on key themes as anticipated at the time of the Prime Minister's original announcement in September 2018, with some added detail ensuring a comprehensive scope. This includes:

  • Quality of aged care services provided in Australia, the failures of the system and a response to this
  • The delivery of services to those with disabilities or dementia in aged care service (including younger people)
  • Future challenges of how services will be delivered in the context of changing demographics and the needs of remote, rural and regional Australians
  • The role of the Australian Government in strengthening the aged care system and affecting change across the board
  • The need to shift to a more person centric model that allows greater flexibility of choice and moving away from a one size fits all approach
  • How to deliver services that are sustainable, innovative in their approach, use technology and attract investment.

The Government is aiming to address not only the deficiencies and wrongs of current and past regimes, but also establish a framework for the future to better serve the increasing number of older Australians.

The Royal Commission is also set to consider:

  • forms of funding,
  • quality and safety of aged care services,
  • the role of the workforce in delivering person-centred care, and
  • the outcomes of previous reports and inquiries, including six different inquiries conducted in 2017 and the release of the federal parliament's inquiry into the quality of care in residential aged care facilities.

Leadership and location of the Aged Care Royal Commission

As part of the announcement, the location of the Royal Commission has been set for Adelaide, perhaps linked to the high-profile breakdowns in the system seen within South Australia.

Former Supreme Court Judge and WA director of public prosecutions, The Hon Justice Joseph McGrath, and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO, former CEO of Medicare and a former Australian Public Service Commissioner, have been appointed Commissioners.

The work of the Commission is set to commence as soon as practicable and to progress as expeditiously with the interim report to be delivered by 31 October 2019 and the final report by 30 April 2020.

What's next for the Aged Care sector and how to be prepared?

No doubt those in the aged care sector are already considering how they might fit into the scope of the Terms of Reference in the context of track record, what they might be asked to contribute and what their response to the Royal Commissions' recommendations might be.

As detailed in our last update, those in the sector need to start considering:

  • What submissions may your organisation need to make to the Royal Commission, whether voluntarily or upon request?
  • Do your internal quality and safety processes and standards require immediate review and amendment?
  • Should an internal investigation be commenced into historical matters that the Commission may request information on?
  • What assistance can be provided to your organisation, your executives, and employees under its relevant insurance policies?
  • How might the outcomes of the Royal Commission impact on the organisation's day-to-day operations, profitability, and operating model going forward?

Lander & Rogers has acted for clients in the two most recent Royal Commissions and has experience advising both individuals and organisations in the aged care sector.

Our team is experienced at preparing witnesses called before Royal Commissions and Inquiries, as well as appearing at hearings to assist witnesses and protect the interests of the organisation. Our Royal Commission team understands the framework and legislative landscape. Having a firm in your corner with this insight and understanding of the nuances of Royal Commissions will be critical.

You may find it useful to watch 'How to prepare for a Royal Commission'.

If you would like to discuss any issues that this Royal Commission may raise for you and your organisation, please get in touch with one of our team.

All information on this site is of a general nature only and is not intended to be relied upon as, nor to be a substitute for, specific legal professional advice. No responsibility for the loss occasioned to any person acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material published can be accepted.