The Parliament House In Canberra, Australia

The Royal Commission Breakdown.

On Sunday our current government head, Scott Morrison called for a Royal Commission into the Aged Care sector. It didn’t come as a surprise quite frankly plenty of us have been fervently waiting for a shake up in the sector.

3 weeks ago, Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt had a different opinion. When asked about the value of a Royal Commission Wyatt was not convinced, stating, “after two years and maybe $200 million being spent on it, it will come back with the same set, or a very similar set of recommendations, the governments will respond and put into place similar bodies”.

Wyatt has since changed his stance due to a personal experience and is now welcoming the inquiry. And, while there may be some providers unnerved about what may come out of this inquiry, most of Australia are also welcoming Morrison’s move – late or not.

The findings from the inquiry will hopefully promise more funding for the sector and more support for care workers in training and on the job. Which is good news all round.

It’s going to be a long road, and so we’re all up to speed we thought we’d look at some of the “whats & whys” of the Royal Commission in simple terms.

What actually is a Royal Commission?

It’s a type of “public inquiry” which involves a group of temporary ad hoc bodies investigating and providing advice around a contentious public issue. In this case it is an investigation into the quality of care in Aged Care centres.

According to the Royal Commissions Act, 1902 a public inquiry is “…connected with the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth.”

Who is the ‘public’ involved in the inquiry?

Groups are appointed by an executive government ––with members drawn from outside government. Inquiries exclude parliamentary committees; permanent government advisory bodies; internal government reports; and other inquiries initiated by government bodies such as ombudsmen, anti-corruption bodies and departments.

What are they investigating?

The inquiry intends to tackle concerns surrounding abuse and neglect within the industry, stemming from the recent incidents from South Australia’s Oakden. In his statement, Prime Minister Morrison said,

“When I became Prime Minister just over three weeks ago, I was advised that as a result of the increased audit work we had commissioned as a Government to deal with this problem, the Department of Health has closed almost one aged care service per month since Oakden, with an increasing number under sanction to improve their care,” he explains.

How public is the inquiry?

Throughout an inquiry, the Royal Commission’s processes are public. The inquiry seeks community input, and their findings are public delivered to the public in a report.

The general focus of any inquiry is on finding the “truth” about an allegation or incident ––in this particular case a set of incidents and allegations ––and are therefore inquisitorial by nature and process.

What do they expect to garner from the inquiry?

The purpose of a public inquiry is to provide information, research and options to governments about a particular policy problem to help regulate and form legislation in a particular area.

When will we see results?

Royal Commissions can last many years and sometimes the findings are left for another government to deal with. Once handed over and once a Royal Commission has started it cannot be stopped at any time by the government. When setting up terms of an inquiry a government will often state when it should be completed, although Aged Care Online reported, “No date for the commencement of the Royal Commission has been announced, with the industry expecting it to run “well into 2019”.

In the meantime we…?

Until the findings of the Royal Commission are reported there won’t be much change from the top, or a considerable injection in funding but that doesn’t mean there won’t be improvements to the sector still rolling on.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of aged care peak body Leading Age Services Australia (LASA),

“Whilst the Royal Commission is underway, we must press on with addressing key workforce and funding issues, and not lose sight of making the system better right now.”
Aged care advocates are hoping the industry doesn’t wait two years to make adjustments. Lynda Saltarelli set up an advocacy group, Aged Care Crisis after her father needed high care as a result of a stroke. When asked by the ABC for comment on the Royal Commission, Ms Sarterelli summed up the heart of the issue simply enough,
“Caring relationships between staff (and residents) are the very basis of good care. These are developed during quiet times. Without some redundancy there’s just no time to get to know them, and relate to the residents.”

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