VHA welcomes Royal Commission’s final report but calls for greater clarity on aged care funding and regulation

March 1, 2021

While welcoming the release of the final report from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, public health peak body the Victorian Healthcare Association emphasises that the lack of agreement on funding and regulation must not be used as an excuse to further delay reform to Australia’s failing aged care system.

After 10,574 submissions, 28 months of work, and 23 public hearings, the final report makes 148 recommendations that will fundamentally change aged care delivery in Australia. The recommendations include:

  • Replacement of the Aged Care Act 1997 with legislation that articulates the purpose of the new aged care system from the perspective of enforceable rights and entitlements
  • Creation of an Australian Aged Care Commission to oversee approval and financial risk monitoring of providers and system governance
  • Establishment of an Aged Care Pricing Authority to determine prices for specified aged care services
  • Creation of a new aged care program that combines the existing Commonwealth Home Support Programme, Home Care Packages Program, and Residential Aged Care Program, including Respite Care and Short-Term Restorative Care
  • Maintaining and extending the Multi-Purpose Services Program by allowing consumer contributions, accessing all aged care funding programs and developing a new funding model.

VHA Chief Executive Tom Symondson believes the final report, its findings and its recommendations marks as a significant turning point and should be implemented without delay to ensure that the reform delivers on its promise.

‘We welcome the long-awaited final report in its recognition that transformative reform is needed to address the shortcomings of the aged care system and fundamentally change the way aged care services are delivered across Australia.’

‘It is pleasing to see that the final report makes a number of recommendations that the VHA and our members have advocated for, including reform of the Aged Care Act, the creation of an Australian Aged Care Pricing Authority, and supporting Multi-Purpose Services, including allowing them to access all aged care funding programs.’

‘However, it is disappointing that there are no recommendations on funding parity for public sector residential aged care (PSRAC) facilities, despite its recommendation to expand the quality indicator data that Victorian PSRACs have long utilised.’

While most recommendations were agreed by both Commissioners, they disagreed over regulation and funding of the new aged care system.

‘It’s disappointing that the commissioners could not agree on a unanimous vision for reform, and it is critical that this disagreement does not lead to confusion and delay that limits the impact of this royal commission; the focus must be on progressing urgent reform that benefits providers and consumers across Australia.’

Ahead of its formal response, the Government has already committed to a five-year roadmap based on five pillars, which are: Home Care; Residential aged care quality and safety; Residential aged care services and sustainability; Workforce, and; Governance. A long-term solution will be included in the upcoming budget, but the Commonwealth Government today announced an additional $452.2 million to address immediate priorities in the sector, including:

  • $18 million to enhance the oversight of the Government’s Home Care Packages Program
  • $32 million to enhance the capacity of the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and ensure greater regulation around the use of restraints in care
  • $189.9 million for residential care providers to provide stability and maintain services while the Government considers the recommendations of the Royal Commission’s Final Report, which equates to around $760 per resident in metropolitan residential aged care, and $1,145 for those in rural, regional and remote areas
  • $90 million to support a Viability Fund to assist facilities
  • $92 million to create over 18,000 places for workers between now and mid-2023
  • $30.1 million to strengthen the governance of aged care providers and legislative governance obligations on the sector.

Minister Hunt also confirmed that work will immediately commence to replace the Aged Care Act 1997.

Mr Symondson welcomes this initial funding announcement and calls for the Commonwealth Government to work with the sector to ensure that the final report can deliver the impact it deserves.

‘This funding announcement and immediate work on the Aged Care Act is an important step, but it must be the first step on a pathway to effective implementation.’

‘We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to a needs-based system, but this must involve working with the sector, particularly Victorian PSRACs, who are often forgotten at a national level but are the largest provider of public sector residential aged care in Australia. While the final report makes a limited mention of public providers, effective implementation in Victoria is not possible without them.’

‘The upcoming 2021-22 Commonwealth Budget represents a major opportunity to deliver on the promise of the Royal Commission – immediate clarification around funding and governance are key enablers for providers to start delivering the aged care that Australians deserve.’