The Aged Care Royal Commission’s Interim Report made public headlines by labelling aged care in Australia ‘a shocking tale of neglect.’ The Commission’s Interim Report, Neglect, heavily condemns the sector’s accessibility and treatment of older Australians, while advocating for large-scale reforms and urgent increases in funding.
Across the nation, aged care providers will be asking themselves what the Commission’s findings mean for their business. While some of that remains to be determined, there’s no question that the Commission and the public have an appetite for changes in this sector now.
At Arenburg Legal, we believe that providers should respond quickly and with commitment to improving their services, while acknowledging that these improvements will require ongoing reflection and developments. Below, we’ve outlined our top three picks for things aged care providers will need to consider off the back of the Royal Commission.
- Prepare for large-scale reform
The Commission indicated that large-scale reform of the entire aged care sector is necessary to fully address the poor treatment of older Australians. These include both structural reforms for businesses to improve their standards and services and legislative reform.
The Interim Report described the current regulatory framework as ‘failing to detect poor practices’ and doing ‘little to encourage better practice beyond a minimum standard.’ Given that the Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck noted there is a ‘high possibility’ of a complete new Aged Care Act off the back of the Royal Commission, providers should prepare for large-scale reform and stay aware of any new obligations.
- Enact transparency of services
As these reforms kick in, so too will more onerous compliance requirements. The Report identified that some aged care providers were ‘defensive, belligerent in their ignorance of what is happening in their facilities or reluctant to take responsibility for poor care.’ Following the damning findings of the Royal Commission, aged care providers are in the spotlight of both the public and the government and will need to enact a more transparent approach to their services.
Transparency in communication, reporting and accountability will likely require providers to make publicly available information concerning their number of staff employed and complaints made against them. While participation by providers in some performance indicators became compulsory in July 2019, the breadth of performance indicator reporting is likely to extend in the near future. At Arenburg, we believe that new reporting standards are necessary to ensure those seeking aged care services can select a provider that not only meets the community expectations of aged care, but also best suits an individual’s needs.
- Start improving employee standards and hiring processes now
Workforce matters were a key focus of the Report, which found that many employees were underappreciated, receiving low pay and insufficiently trained to work in aged care. The sector is struggling to attract, train, retain and sustain employees – yet it’s predicted that the aged care workforce must grow from approximately 366,000 to 980,000 employees by 2050 to meet Australia’s ageing population.
Quite simply, employee treatment, training and hiring processes need to drastically improve. Providers need to invest in training staff, particularly to handle identifying triggers, symptoms for behaviours and de-escalation techniques, as well as support for grief and loss. This training should exist alongside training for day-to-day care for older people. The Interim Report has also identified that education on dementia and palliative care are also needed.
When it comes to hiring processes, providers must seek employees of ‘good character’ – those who possess patience, empathy, compassion and creative problem-solving. We’ve covered more on how to improve employee hiring and standards in our blog Attracting great employees – How aged care can face the future shortage of workers.
There’s no question that the Royal Commission has labelled the aged care sector as one to watch. At Arenburg Legal, we strongly believe that providers must begin enacting changes suggested by the Commission and raise the standard of aged care services. While there’s a long way to go, and many are waiting to see what changes come out of the Commission’s Final Report, we believe providers need to start preparing for these changes now.