Australia’s aged care services – where to from here?

A damning indictment through the Royal Commission's interim report is likely to leave providers across the country wondering what happens next.

Staff Writer 12 Nov 2019
2 mins
The Royal Commission has issued a damning indictment of the country's Aged Care system.

The Aged Care Royal Commission has published its interim report and its title, “Neglect”, encapsulates a damning indictment of the sector.

The language used by Commissioners Richard Tracey and Lynelle Briggs in the report was especially notable for its strength and emotive nature.

After eight months of hearings, 6897 submissions, survey responses from more than 1000 providers and with another year of proceedings to go, the commissioners have already concluded that a fundamental overhaul of the aged care system is needed.

While the interim report acknowledges there are many examples of great quality care and caring environments across Australia, these have clearly been overwhelmed by evidence of what they have described as a “cruel and harmful system” which is too often “unsafe and seemingly uncaring”.

The Commissioners’ interpretation of the evidence and the media coverage we have seen this year highlight the challenges facing individual aged care providers in reassuring their residents, care recipients and their families, and in protecting their reputations as providers of high-quality care.

The report also holds some lessons for disability services providers wrestling with how to respond to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, which commenced last week.

Perhaps most pointedly, in a section on the interim report entitled “How does the aged care sector respond?”, the Commissioners began with just three short words:

“Not very well.”

And later:

“Some providers of aged care have appeared before the Royal Commission to be defensive and occasionally belligerent in their ignorance of what is happening in the facilities of which they are responsible.

On many occasions, when case studies were presented in hearings, providers were reluctant to take responsibility for poor care on their watch.”

For the providers who are failing in quality and safety or care, the equation is obvious.

As a starting point, they need to address their shortcomings immediately, if they have not already done so. They must then think about how they will communicate the measures they have put in place to those in their care and their families, their staff, stakeholders and regulatory bodies.

For providers delivering high quality and safe care – and the hope is that most providers are in this category – the road ahead is slightly less complex but no less important.

At an extremely challenging time for the sector, these providers have good news stories to tell. And at a time when there is the danger of negative publicity reflecting on all providers, it is vital these positive stories are told.

The process starts by determining the stories you will tell, how you will tell them and where they will be told.

If you don’t already have the channels capable of carrying and amplifying your message (think websites, social media and newsletters), it’s time now to start addressing that situation.

At Purple, we often say that you can’t rely on anyone else to tell your story for you.

That’s most certainly the case for aged care providers in the current environment – particularly when it comes to good news stories.

Purple has significant experience supporting clients through Royal Commissions and is currently providing advice and assistance to a number of providers for both the Aged Care and Disability Services Royal Commissions.

Contact National Director Karen Brown or Associate Directors Carina Tan-Van Baren and Jean Perkins.

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