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Royal commission to examine aged care

A royal commission into aged care in Australia has received the backing of leading groups in the sector.

But they don’t want the inquiry to be used as an excuse for the federal government to delay important reforms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the royal commission on Sunday, following appalling cases of abuse of elderly people.

It comes as the number of Australians moving into residential care is set to rise sharply as the nation’s population ages.

“We are committed to providing older Australians with access to care that supports their dignity and recognises the contribution that they have made to society,” Mr Morrison said.

The decision 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 prime minister said he could no longer ignore the alarming number of aged care operators “flouting the law and putting lives at risk”.

There was an 177 per cent increase in the number of aged care homes where a serious risk to residents was identified in the last financial year, according to new government figures.

There was a 292 per cent increase in the number of facilities that refused to comply with rules.

“Walking by these statistics was not possible,” Mr Morrison said.

Leading Age Care Services Australia, Aged and Community Services Australia and the Council on the Ageing said they welcomed the review.

But Leading Age Care Services Australia chief executive Sean Rooney said given there have already been a range of reviews into the sector, the royal commission must not get in the way of urgent changes.

“We must press on with addressing key workforce and funding issues, and not lose sight of making the system better right now,” he said.

COTA chief executive Ian Yates has echoed that sentiment.

“While the commission does its work the Morrison government must continue to focus on implementing recommendations of a string of inquiries into the sector over recent years,” he said.

Aged and Community Services Australia, which represents about 700 not-for-profit providers, said the royal commission is a chance to have a “broader conversation” on what the community wants from aged care.

The prime minister said Australia was a world leader in aged care, and most operators and carers were outstanding, but that the best teams will always want to do better.

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who has previously said there is a “national crisis” in aged care, said the probe was overdue.

He has stressed the need for the inquiry to look not just at individual cases of mistreatment but at “fundamental, systemic problems”.

“It’s got to be everything. Staff, training, funding – making sure people get the care that they deserve,” he told ABC TV on Sunday.

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