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Respect their work with ratios: aged care royal commission lawyers

Respect their work with ratios: aged care royal commission lawyers

Lawyers from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety have called for an overhaul of aged care including mandated staffing ratios in residential care, compulsory registration of personal care workers and a new independent watchdog organisation.

After two and half years of hearings, counsel assisting the royal commission submitted 124 recommendations to the royal commission on 22 October.

Victoria already has mandated nurse to resident ratios in public aged care, as part of the Safe Patient Care Act but private aged care is regulated by the Morrison Government. There are no minimum mandated staffing ratios in private aged care in Victoria.

Counsel assisting the royal commission’s first recommendation is the replacement of the current Commonwealth aged care legislation – the Aged Care Act 1997 – with a new Act, to be in force by 1 July 2023. The Act would be underpinned by human rights principles for older people.

The royal commission lawyers also recommended:

  • Mandated minimum skill levels for aged care staff
  • Improved remuneration for aged care staff
  • A minimum staff care time quality and safety standard, including minimum care times provided by a registered nurse.
  • By 1 July 2022, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) should establish a National Board and a registration scheme for personal care workers, including a mandatory minimum qualification and requirements for ongoing training and professional development.
  • The Australian Government establish a new National Cabinet Reform Committee on Ageing and Older Australians with representatives from the Australian and state and territory governments to include high-ranking Ministers.
  • A 10-year strategy to develop the integrated system begin immediately and involve older people’s input.
  • An independent watchdog entity, the Australian Aged Care Commission, to be established by 1 July 2023, replacing the existing regulator.

Among the organisation’s functions, it would oversee:

  • approval of providers as eligible to receive aged care subsidies
  • quality and safety regulation
  • workforce planning and development, including setting and refining requirements for minimum staffing levels and minimum qualifications for staff providing care.

Also recommended was a new Australian Aged Care Pricing Authority to determine prices of aged care and an Inspector-General of Aged Care.

Senior Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission, Peter Rozen QC, said ‘aged care workers don’t need to be told they’re heroes’.

‘What they need is a practical recognition of the value of their work. They need better wages and conditions and they need to have enough colleagues so that they can complete their work safely and to the standard they consider appropriate.

‘We submit that this is how their work can be properly respected and acknowledged.’

Read the royal commission lawyers’ full submission and give feedback on the submission by 12 November.