Quality checks on aged homecare providers have declined, despite the watchdogs responsible being given at least $6.5 million to hire more assessors, a royal commission has heard.
- Documents reveal 181 aged homecare quality reviews were done between April and June 2019
- The number fell to 24 reviews between July and September this year
- Millions of dollars more was allocated for hiring more assessors and to improve monitoring
The Royal Commission into Aged Care was shown documents that revealed 181 quality reviews of aged homecare providers were conducted from April to June 2019, but that number fell to 24 in July to September this year.
Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray QC told the inquiry the data showed “a remarkable reduction in the number of quality reviews, and assessment contacts in home services”.
Responsibility for quality in aged care was transferred from the Federal Department of Health to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) on January 1 this year.
The inquiry heard money from three sources was provided to increase compliance with aged homecare standards.
This included allocations of $2.4 million to hire more assessors in the 2019-20 financial year, and $4.1 million to improve monitoring of homecare services.
In its written response to the royal commission, the ACQSC said it was using the money to increase its homecare service compliance activity — but the change was progressing “more slowly than planned”.
Mr Gray asked ACQSC head Janet Anderson: “Isn’t it more the case that any program for increasing the level of compliance activity … hasn’t progressed more slowly, it’s actually gone backwards?”
“There is no doubt that we have put additional effort into the work being undertaken … in terms of a strengthened approach to understanding risk across the sector and undertaking targeted approaches to individual providers where we are concerned about the profile,” she replied.
Mr Gray pressed on: “Well, I’m not sure if I follow … hasn’t compliance activity declined since the preceding financial year?”
“I think the point you are making is valid … regulatory activity in so far as you would include quality reviews and assessment contacts, as reported, have declined,” Ms Anderson replied.
Mr Gray said the overwhelming majority of elderly people would prefer to age in their own homes.
But by the time they turn 80, one in five will be living in residential aged care.
The commission was told that Australia has one of the highest percentages of elderly people living in institutional care of any developed country.