Last week’s hearings for the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, introduced the leaders of some of Australia’s peak bodies, unions, consumer organisations and the Secretary to the Department, Glenys Beauchamp. In all 26 witnesses were called.

What did we learn?

The Commission asked the leaders of various aged care peak bodies to present their submissions and asked them to clarify their role and the purpose of their organisation.

Briefly, the submissions of Aged Community Services Australia (ACSA), Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA), Dementia Australia, Catholic Health Australia and others highlighted the need for an appropriate funding model that recognised the complexity of work required to deliver the quality and safety for residents that the community expects. Mr Nick Mersiades, Director of Aged Care, Catholic Health Australia identified that the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) was really a resource allocation model - a way of distributing an amount of money budgeted by government across a range of activities undertaken by providers. When the actual costs exceeded the budget, the government responded by changing the rules of the ACFI to reduce government expenditure. Mr Sean Rooney, CEO, LASA highlighted that the reason actual cost has grown is due to the increased acuity of residents on presentation to services, requiring much greater care than was required several years ago.

In addition, there was consensus that staff require more training. Although more personal care workers have been trained than ever before, the restrictions in funding have impaired the ability of providers to extend training opportunities to the number of workers required to meet demand.

Overall, Commissioners Tracey and Briggs were appreciative of the insights shared in the submissions and testimonies of the industry’s leaders. Generally the testimony was positive and focussed on the opportunity to improve the sector including the key drivers of future success.

Some media outlets have suggested that LASA’s CEO Sean Rooney came under greater scrutiny that other witnesses. This highlights the Commissions willingness to challenge testimony and seek clarification from witnesses - in a similar way as the recent Financial Services and Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commissions.

What can you do?

The hearings are giving providers an insight into how the Commission will progress and how Counsel will engage with witnesses. Our recommendation to providers and witnesses is to:

  • Understand your purpose, and very clearly, how your services help achieve that purpose and whether you have the right skills and capabilities in leadership positions to oversee your organisation
  • Be well prepared with both information and witness presentation skills
  • Have a clear understanding of your governance and policy framework, and its adequacy to meet quality and safety objectives for residents
  • Develop a plan for organisational improvement that will enhance enterprise value and address any concerns that the Commission might have about gaps in your governance framework, or concerns regarding its effectiveness
  • Review your long term sustainability in an environment that is likely to require increased compliance requirements, and greater accountability for Boards and Executives
  • Consider the benefits of an independent review of your organisation, to give you comfort that any required changes are validated against organisational objectives

Further hearings are being planned by the Commission and details can be found here.

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