When Australians make the challenging decisions of how their older loved ones will be looked after, the prime minister says they need to have confidence in the nation’s aged care system.
That’s why Scott Morrison says he has ordered a royal commission into the aged care sector, following appalling cases of abuse of elderly people.
“That would have to be one of the toughest decisions you make. They are relying on you, 100 per cent, in their time of greatest vulnerability,” he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.
“Every Australian who makes that decision, and for every Australian whom that decision is being made for, they deserve to have great confidence about the care that their loved ones will receive.”
The inquiry comes after audits at some facilities revealed a “disturbing trend” of non-compliance and abuses in the sector, Mr Morrison said.
There was a 177 per cent increase in the number of aged care homes where a serious risk to residents was identified in the last financial year.
There was also a 292 per cent increase in the number of facilities that refused to comply with rules.
The prime minister said Australia had some of the finest facilities in the world, but he expected the royal commission to uncover more confronting information.
“We should brace ourselves for some pretty bruising information about the way our loved ones, some of them have experienced some real mistreatment,” he said.
“That’s going to be tough for us to deal with, but you can’t walk past it.”
The decision to order a royal commission was triggered in part by the Oakden nursing home scandal in South Australia.
The home was closed a year ago after it was revealed elderly patients with dementia had been abused for years.
The royal commission also comes as the number of Australians receiving care is set to rise sharply as the nation’s population ages.
The number of people aged 85 or older is expected to increase four-fold from 500,000 in 2015 to 1.9 million in 2055.
The royal commission will look at the quality of both residential and home aged care, including how young Australians with disabilities are care for in residential facilities.
A number of aged care groups have welcomed the step.
But some have said they don’t want it to slow down urgent reforms, which have been recommended by a range of previous inquiries.
“We must press on with addressing key workforce and funding issues, and not lose sight of making the system better right now,” Leading Age Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said.
Mr Morrison said the government would not pause important work in the sector already underway.
Labor leader Bill Shorten, who has previously said there is a “national crisis” in aged care, said the probe was overdue.
Mr Morrison said the terms of reference of the royal commission will be established in the next few weeks.