The Morrison government will establish a royal commission into the aged-care sector in response to damning incidents of neglect, abuse and negligence in nursing homes across the country.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, says incidences of older people being hurt by failures of care cannot be excused, and he’s determined to know how widespread the problems are.
It is nearly 12 months after South Australia’s Oakden aged care facility was closed following horrific evidence of elder abuse and neglect.
Since then, the Department of Health has closed almost one aged care service per month in Australia.
There is a growing number of services under sanction to improve their care.
Morrison’s announcement comes a day before the ABC’s Four Corners program begins airing a two-part investigation of the treatment of elderly Australians in aged care homes.
The ease with which Morrison has announced a royal commission into the aged care sector stands in contrast with his long-standing opposition to establishing a banking royal commission.
But immigration David Coleman said Morrison was “getting out on the front foot” with this decision, and the Business Council of Australia’s chief executive Jennifer Westacott said it was a “spot-on call” by Morrison.
“Whether there is a crisis in aged care or not is to be determined,” Morrison said in a statement.
“That is the point of holding a royal commission. It is not to pre-determine outcomes. The evidence shows that the problems are not restricted to any one part of the aged care sector, whether it is for profit or not for profit, large or small facilities, regional or major metropolitan,” he said.
The royal commission will focus on the quality of care provided in residential and home aged care to senior Australians, but will also include young Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care settings.
Morrison said the terms of reference would be determined in consultation with the community, including residents and their families and aged care providers.
However, he expected it would cover:
The quality of care provided to older Australians, and the extent of substandard care
The challenge of providing care to Australians with disabilities living in residential aged care, particularly younger people with disabilities
The challenge of supporting the increasing number of Australians suffering dementia and addressing their care needs as they age
The future challenges and opportunities for delivering aged care services in the context of changing demographics, including in remote, rural and regional Australia
Any other matters that the Royal Commission considers necessary
Earlier this year, Labor leader Shorten said the opposition wanted to make aged care “a central national issue” but he was unconvinced a royal commission into the sector was warranted.
“I don’t know if one is needed,” Shorten said in July. “Some people say so. Of course the advantage of a royal commission, as I’ve demonstrated with the banks, is that it puts it right in the centre of national attention.”