Royal Commission’s final research paper puts spotlight on community expectations of aged care – and willingness of Australians to pay more for quality care

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The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has reinforced its message that older Australians are unhappy with the care they receive in residential care – but taxpayers are willing to pay more to fund a better system – in its just-released final research paper ahead of the 26 February deadline for its Final Report.

Its 20th 22-page research paper – titled ‘Australia’s aged care system: the quality of care experience and community expectations’ – relies yet again on three national surveys conducted by Flinders University’s Caring Futures Institute in 2020 which were also used to produce the Royal Commission’s paper on quality of care and future funding last July.

A survey of just 391 residents at 67 aged care facilities found that just 24% of people in residential aged care feel their care needs are always met – with 6.1% of responses via proxies.

Of the 865 people surveyed about their home care services, only 20% said their care needs were always met – although almost half 49.8% of the responses were via proxies.

These numbers increased to 58% of those in residential care and 50% of those receiving home care when respondents were asked if their needs were mostly but not always met.

Earlier research shows taxpayers willing to pay more for quality care

The figures are contrasted with the Commission’s earlier research from a separate Flinders University survey of 10,000 taxpayers aged 18 to 91 that found 61% would be willing to pay 3.1% more tax a year on average to ensure all Australians have access to high-quality aged care.

That paper also indicated that at least 15% of the public consider that people in care should have their needs met ‘always’ for the care to qualify as ‘satisfactory’ – indicating the reality of aged care falls far short of expectations.

The research also stresses that the majority of respondents saw aged care as a vital social service – particularly women and older people.

Unsurprisingly, people who had a greater understanding of the aged care system had a better appreciation of the importance of all aspects of care.

Royal Commission’s legacy – a better understanding of what consumers want

You have to ask: why re-publish research that the punters have already heard?

The conclusion gives some insight.

“One of the legacies of the Royal Commission is that Australia now has a substantially improved understanding of the quality of aged care services and the community’s expectations for higher quality care to be achieved in the future,” it states.

The paper suggests these surveys could be repeated at regular intervals to monitor the progress of the aged care system, promote continuous quality improvement among providers, and move more quickly to address problems.

We would suggest that it is also a reminder to Government that Australians expect more from their aged care system – and could be persuaded to contribute more.