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Newsletter - Issue 5 - Spring 2020

Welcome to the latest Newsletter from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. In this issue we look at our final hearings, a special report on COVID-19 in aged care and a review of publications recently released by the Commission.

Final hearings for the Royal Commission

Senior Counsel Assisting, Mr Peter Gray QC, who presented final submissions to Commissioners on 23 October 2020

Above, Senior Counsel Assisting, Mr Peter Gray QC, who presented final submissions to Commissioners on 23 October 2020.

The final Royal Commission hearing with witnesses – Sydney Hearing 5 – was held from 14 to 22 September 2020. It focused on the topic of funding, financing and prudential regulation. It drew to a close a Royal Commission hearings schedule which began with the Preliminary Hearing held in Adelaide in January 2019 and spanned 23 hearings over 22 months.

The Royal Commission concluded public hearings on 22 and 23 October 2020 when Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray QC and Peter Rozen QC presented their final submissions to Commissioners at a virtual hearing in Melbourne.

Counsel Assisting put forward 124 recommendations to be considered by Royal Commissioners before their final report to Government in February.

Recommendations proposed by Counsel Assisting included:

  • mandating staffing levels
  • laws based on human rights principles for older people
  • an independent process for quality standards
"It drew to a close a Royal Commission hearings schedule which spanned 23 hearings over 22 months."

Royal Commission releases COVID-19 report

The Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO present the COVID-19 report to His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) in October 2020

Above, the Honourable Tony Pagone QC and Ms Lynelle Briggs AO present the COVID-19 report to His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) in October 2020.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest challenge Australia's aged care sector has faced. Those who have suffered the most have been the residents, their families and aged care staff."

The Royal Commission's investigation into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on aged care services resulted in a special report that was released on 1 October 2020. The Commissioners decided to deliver a separate report earlier than the Royal Commission's Final Report, due in February 2021, due to the urgency of the situation.

The special COVID-19 report makes six recommendations, among them, a requirement that the Australian Government report to the Australian Parliament no later than 1 December 2020 on the progress of their implementation.

The report identifies four areas for immediate action to support the aged care sector:

  • First, the Australian Government should fund providers to ensure there are adequate staff available to deal with external visitors to enable a greater number of more meaningful visits between people receiving care and their loved ones.
  • Second, the Australian Government should create Medicare Benefits Schedule items to increase the provision of allied health and mental health services to people living in residential aged care during the pandemic to prevent deterioration in their physical and mental health.
  • Third, the Australian Government should publish a national aged care plan for COVID-19 and establish a national aged care advisory body.
  • Finally, the Australian Government should require providers to appoint infection control officers and should arrange for the deployment of accredited infection prevention and control experts into residential aged care homes.

Read the full list of recommendations and read the report.

Virtual Reality

How virtual hearings became the new normal

Participants in a virtual meeting

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety suspended hearings in March 2020 to protect hearing participants and staff during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The suspension also allowed those working in the aged care sector to focus on managing the impact of the pandemic.

When the Royal Commission resumed hearings in July, they were conducted exclusively as virtual hearings. This meant that participants would appear in a 'virtual' hearing room via a video connection rather than in person in a courtroom with Commissioners and counsel.

The virtual hearings presented a number of unique logistical challenges for Royal Commission IT staff and solicitors, who were tasked with communicating the new online procedures and connecting the participants – from across the country and internationally – so they could provide critical evidence to the Commission.

Diverse research supports the Royal Commission's work

The cover of Inside the System paper held over a desk
"Among the papers was landmark research from Flinders University which found that Australians strongly support increased funding of high-quality aged care."

Over the course of 2020 the Royal Commission has released a series of research and background papers on a range of topics, including financing and funding in aged care, prudential regulation of aged care, financial transparency, affordable high-quality aged care, monitoring of standards in aged care, and models of care.

Recent publications released by the Royal Commission: June to September 2020

  • Inside the system: home and respite care clients' perspectives – National Ageing Research Institute
  • Inside the system: aged care residents' perspectives – National Ageing Research Institute
  • What Australians think of ageing and aged care – Roy Morgan
  • Community attitudes to ageing and aged care – Ipsos
  • Views and preferences for quality of care and future funding – Flinders University
  • Models of integrated care, health and housing – National Ageing Research Institute
  • International and national quality and safety indicators – South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute
  • Technical mapping between ACFI and AN-ACC – The University of Wollongong
  • The cost of residential aged care – The University of Queensland
  • Aged care reform: projecting future impacts – Deloitte Access Economics
  • Profitability and viability of the Australian aged care industry – BDO
  • Capital financing for residential aged care – The Office of the Royal Commission
  • The required return for aged care providers – Frontier Economics

Find these papers and others on the publications page of the Commission website.

Number of public submissions surpasses 10,000

The Royal Commission has received more than 10,000 submissions from the public, government parties and organisations since the original call for submissions was made on Christmas Eve in 2018.

General submissions closed on 31 July 2020, while submissions on specific issues continued to be sought in response to hearings.

The Royal Commission began publishing a monthly selection of submissions in mid-2020. To read a cross-section of submissions made to the Royal Commission, visit the website.

A map of the distribution of submissions made by each state and territory

Above, the distribution of submissions made by each state and territory.

The Royal Commissioners thank members of the public and organisations for telling their stories and for making a valuable contribution to the Commission's work.

Contact us

You can contact the Royal Commission in a number of ways:

  • By email at ACRCenquiries@royalcommission.gov.au
  • By telephone on 1800 960 711 (between 8.30am - 5.30pm ACDT,
    Monday to Friday except on public holidays; interpreter service available)
  • By post at GPO Box 1151, ADELAIDE, SA 5001​

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