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Aged care royal commission being extended

An ongoing royal commission into Australia’s struggling and scandal-prone aged care sector is being extended by several months.

The federal government is also funding another 6100 in-home aged care packages, which have been massively oversubscribed for years.

“We will take every opportunity in the future, including the budget and the mid-year statement that follows, to continue to address this task,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday.

“This is about ensuring that Australians as they age have greater choices, that families have greater choices.”

Some 50,000 in-home packages have been added since the 2018/19 budget at a cost of $3 billion.

But there are 104,000 older Australians who have been approved for in-home care but are still waiting for packages.

The new funding will be split between level one, two and three packages.

Labor points out there are nearly 22,000 people waiting for level four, the highest care needs.

“Time and time again the Morrison government’s miserly announcements of new home care packages have failed to address the true scale of Australia’s aged care crisis,” opposition spokeswoman for ageing Julie Collins said.

Wednesday’s announcement was “yet another drop in the ocean”, she said.

The Council on the Ageing Australia acknowledged the 50,000 new home care packages funded since May 2018 was a substantial increase but still well short of what was needed.

“More people than ever will receive home care, but it’s still unacceptable that people can wait for over a year for high care at home after they have been assessed as needing it,” chief executive Ian Yates said.

The aged care royal commission was originally due to report by November 12 but will be given until February 26.

The commission will hold public hearings in Melbourne next week.

As part of the extension, acting chair of the royal commission Tony Pagone QC will be formally appointed to the role.

Aged and Community Services Australia, which represents non-profit aged care providers, said with coronavirus delays there simply hadn’t been enough time for the commission to properly investigate solutions to the challenges the sector faces.

“We’re hopeful that this extension will be the start of a serious community-wide conversation about how to pay for the aged care older Australians deserve,” chief executive Patricia Sparrow said.

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