Proposal to take aged care out of government

Senior counsel assisting the aged care royal commission have made the case for the creation of an independent body that would take responsibility for aged care out of the hands of the government and its bureaucrats.

In their final submission, Peter Gray QC and Peter Rozen QC recommend the establishment of an Australian Aged Care Commission independent of government and responsible for administering and regulating the aged care system.

Royal Commissioner Lynelle Briggs described the proposal as “quite extraordinary … and even courageous” and questioned whether such a move would be in the best interests of older Australians.

“I am yet to hear you present arguments, counsel, as to how the Commission model will improve the quality and safety of care for older Australians,” she said.

“Or how any such benefits would outweigh the very substantial costs and disruption involved in such a radical transformation of the government’s administrative machinery.”

Aged care royal commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs

Commissioner Briggs said it was important for ministers to be accountable to parliament for their performance, and aged care must be closely connected with the health system and other government services.

Also, she said that at least for the foreseeable future aged care will continue to be funded via parliamentary appropriations.

“I would expect that all governments would want clear oversight of over $20 billion in outlays,” she said.

Setting up a new aged care commission would require new legislation, new funding, a new workforce, new systems and building acquisitions, Commissioner Briggs said.

A new body would also take years to set up, divert time and money  and replace “experienced and knowledgeable” staff with private sector employees and contractors.

As well as the commission model, Ms Briggs said the prospect of a ‘radically reformed’ new Department of Health and Ageing headed by a cabinet minister should be considered.

“That Department would be more proactive and more responsive in the way it engages with older people in the sector,” she said.

Within the department the secretary would be responsible for implementing the changes recommended in the Royal Commission’s final report, which will be handed down next year.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission would remain a separate government body, Ms Briggs said, but it would be “reconstituted and revitalised” as an independent authority and the “tough cop on the beat”.

However fellow commissioner Tony Pagone said his colleague’s remarks about the proposed commission were not a “final decision”.

“I suspect that my own view is much closer aligned to that which you put forward,” he told counsel.

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