Aged care only inquiry, with teeth

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The terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Aged Care have been announced and its exclusive focus is aged care, excluding retirement villages.

The document appoints Justice McGrath and Lynelle Briggs AO and directs them on their objectives.

It is six pages long but, in our mind, the key excerpts below identify the core objectives of safety, dignity and shared responsibility for sustainability.

Mindful of the Banking Royal Commission where banks and insurers were required to in effect to submit proof of their own failures before the enquiry commenced or suffer legal consequences, this Royal Commission appears to have been given a similar direction by the government. Operators take note.

The key excerpts:

 “older Australians deserve high quality care in a safe environment that protects their well-being and dignity”.

“… It is important that the Australian government has the best regulatory and policy framework to provide a sustainable aged care system that meets the needs of older Australians in the future”.

“… To enquire into the following matters:

(d) what the Australian government, aged care industry, Australian families and the wider community can do to strengthen the system of aged care services to ensure that services provided are of high quality and safe:”

“(f) how best to deliver aged care services in a sustainable way…”

“AND WE direct you to make any recommendations arising out of your enquiry that you consider appropriate, including recommendations about any policy, legislators, administrative or structural reforms.”

“We direct you… To consider the following matters, and we authorise you… to take … any action arising out of your consideration:

(o) the need to establish mechanisms to facilitate the timely communication of information, or the furnishing of evidence, documents or things… for the purpose of enabling the timely investigation and prosecution of offences;”

The Commissioners have 12 months and 21 days to deliver the first report.

In our opinion this is a once only opportunity to clear the fog that envelops all discussion in the sector. Poor arguments by bureaucrats, politicians, operators and advocacy groups will likely be laid bare.

Hopefully, whichever party is in power, the government will receive a mandate to effect meaningful long-term change. This can only be good.