Media release: New “people-powered” movement, Aged Care Reform Now launches to lobby for change of the aged care system

Aged Care Reform Now yellow and black logo

New “people-powered” movement, Aged Care Reform Now launches to lobby for change of the aged care system

Key points: 

  • Aged Care Reform Now is driven by older people and families who have first-hand experiences with aged care services. 
  • The group advocates for a new aged care system that focuses on:
    • Transparency
    • Increased staffing levels and skill mix; and 
    • Effective regulation 
      to ensure the human rights of older people are upheld.
  • Aged Care Reform Now will lobby politicians on all sides to make aged care an election issue. The system is broken – it needs a complete overhaul to focus on the rights of older people.

In the lead up to the release of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report due to be made public this week, a passionate group of volunteers have joined forces to create a movement dedicated to bringing about reform of aged care in Australia – Aged Care Reform Now.

Born out of a Facebook group originally dedicated to advocacy and advice, the group has transitioned to activism. Aged Care Reform Now is unique because it is independent, volunteer-based and receives no government funding. Most importantly, Aged Care Reform Now is driven by the views and experiences of older people and families – their voices have been absent for far too long.

The movement’s aim is to see meaningful and sustainable improvements in the aged care system – both residential and home care services. The group advocates for:

  • A new Aged Care Act that focuses on the human rights of older people
  • Effective regulation
  • Financial transparency
  • Increased staffing levels and skill mix
  • Disclosure of performance indicators
  • Public access of regulator’s spot-check reports 
  • Public reporting of complaints including how they are managed and resolved
  • Mandatory reporting of elder abuse
  • Home care that prioritises each individual’s need for support
  • Working with older people and families when designing aged care services.

Aged Care Reform Now hopes the Royal Commission will be a catalyst for change. The group intends to make aged care an election issue to ensure the government translates the Royal Commission’s recommendations into action.

Susan Holtom, a member of the original Facebook group, is thrilled the group has transitioned from advocacy to activism. “I’ve always been an activist – but it is hard for me as I’ve got older. The best I can do now – working from my bed – is to short-circuit people’s frustration with the system by giving them advice on Facebook about how to self-manage their own home care package,” she said.

Human rights of older people

Dr Sarah Russell, Aged Care Reform Now co-founder, explained the need for reform: “Many witnesses told heartbreaking stories of neglect, negligence and abuse during the Royal Commission’s hearings. Sadly, none of these stories were surprising. Similar stories have been told in submissions to numerous inquiries over the past 20 years.” 

“Since the Aged Care Act 1997 came into effect, the balance of power has been with providers – not older people and families who use aged services. This must change. We urgently need a new Aged Care Act that is focused on human rights of older people.” 

Financial transparency

Aged care providers receive $21 billion annually in government subsidies. Currently the public has no way of knowing how providers spend this. Do they spend the subsidy on providing nursing care, meals and activities for residents or on sports cars for their executive team?

Providers often say: “The sector needs more money”. And yes, the sector does need more money. However, the government should not give more money to aged care providers without financial transparency. The public is entitled to know how aged care providers spend taxpayers’ money.

Public reporting of complaints

Too often issues with service providers are dismissed as “one-off incidents.” In order to improve the quality of services, and help older people and their families choose the right services and service providers for them, Aged Care Reform Now is calling for public reporting of complaints. 

Anna Willis elaborates, “In today’s day and age, there’s public disclosure of complaints across a whole range of services – from restaurants to hairdressers. Why don’t we have legislated public disclosure of complaints against providers who deliver services for older people? These people are our parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, and friends.”  

“So many issues identified in the Royal Commission could have been dealt with much earlier if there had been better public disclosure on the number and nature of complaints. This would have shown that these complaints were not ’one-off’ as providers often claimed.”

Next steps

Aged Care Reform Now will continue to keep Australians informed and engaged in the issues older people and their families face.

The group is in its start-up phase. The website has been launched and the next major piece of work will be the establishment of Working Groups. Members of the Working Groups will include aged care residents, recipients of home care packages, First Nations elders, older people with a disability, older people from culturally and linguistically diverse and LGBTIQ communities. There will also be two working groups with families: one will comprise family members who are primary carers of older people living at home and the other will include family/friends who visit aged care homes. These groups will ensure the diverse views, experiences and needs of older people and their families are represented, and their voices heard.

Aged Care Reform Now will maintain pressure on politicians and providers by mobilising its community to share their experiences via the media, its website and other public forums. Through its collaboration with an independent complaints tracker, Aged Care Reform Now encourages members of the public to register complaints – both big and small – with issue.watch to ensure complaints can be tracked and amalgamated to enable systemic issues to be identified.

For further information, contact:
Media inquiries
Dr Sarah Russell
sarahrussell@comcen.com.au
0435 268 357

General inquiries
info@agedcarereformnow.com.au 
Please note Aged Care Reform Now is a volunteer organisation. A member of the team will respond as soon as they can. 

About Aged Care Reform Now

Aged Care Reform Now is a grassroots group dedicated to improving aged care services in Australia. We advocate for a new aged care system that focuses on transparency, accountability, and effective regulation to ensure the human rights of older people are upheld. Like so many “people-powered” movements, the core group began with a few hard working and dedicated people “sitting” around a virtual kitchen table. (Most meetings took place via zoom with members in Sydney and Melbourne). The group has been guided and supported by members of a Facebook group started more than five years ago by aged care advocate Dr Sarah Russell. An External Advisor panel has been established and the team is in the process of creating working groups comprising older people and their families with experience of the aged care system. For more information, go to www.agedcarereformnow.com.au 

The Aged Care Reform Now team

The team includes Dr Sarah Russell, Anna Willis, Erietta Sapounakis, Michelle Chaperon, Peter Norden AO, and Glenda Addicott. The group also has external advisors with expertise in human rights law, policy, activism and aged care. These external advisors are: Professor Jan Carter AM, Mark Aitken, Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen AM QC, and Elizabeth Minter.

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