When Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that he would be launching a royal commission into the aged care industry in Australia last month, the news was met with undisputed praise from voters, politicians and advocacy groups alike.
The announcement was followed by a shocking episode of ABC program Four Corners, which carried out an in-depth investigation into the state of the Australian aged care sector, shining a light on instances of neglect and malpractice that have affected older Australians who rely on the system.
While Morrison’s announcement that there would be a thorough public inquiry was heralded as necessary and overdue, advocates have also called on the Coalition not to sit back and wait until the findings of the commission have been published before they begin to make positive change in the industry.
Positive Ageing Advocate, and Chief Executive Officer of BallyCara, Marcus Riley told Starts at 60 that there are a number of things the government could do immediately to improve the aged care sector in Australia, including restructuring the current funding regime in the next federal budget.
“The government has the ability now to make policy and change to the system, to provide better options for older people and better support the aged care system and the aged care industry,” Riley said. “We will certainly embrace the royal commission, but it’s important to note that a lot of things could have been done, and should still be done in the interim, through the existing powers and controls that the government has.
“What we don’t want to be doing as a society, and certainly the government, is sitting and waiting for the royal commission before any positive changes are made. In terms of changing funding regimes, very important changes could be introduced as part of the next federal budget.”
Riley also stressed that the government needs to start looking at the aged care sector in line with other policy areas, rather than as an isolated issue, as many other factors such as the economy and employment directly impact the lives of senior Australians as they age.
“I think it is risky to look at aged care in isolation because there’s so many other connected aspects, both from a government policy and society point of view, which really need to be considered as we look at what the best aged care system should be,” Riley said.
He added: “What we’ve seen previously is the absence of a genuine vision for what our aged care system should be. We need to stop trying to make people’s needs fit a limited funding envelope and work out what is needed, then we can develop the appropriate solution to support that system.
“We don’t want a cookie cutter system where one size fits all, we need different options and choices for people because different individuals will have their own preferences and of course their own needs and we need a system and an industry which is supported to provide different options and ways of doing things.”