Aged care rights – need for independent complaints investigation scheme

PIAC made a submission to the review of the Commonwealth Aged Care Complaints Investigation scheme conducted by Professor Merrilyn Walton.  In that submission, PIAC called for the office of the Aged Care Commissioner to be made more independent and called for the decisions of the Commissioner to be final, and not subject to being overturned by the Government, as is currently the situation. 

Professor Walton recommended these changes in her October 2009 Report Review of Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme. PIAC will continue to campaign that the recommendations in this report be implemented by the Commonwealth Government.

In 2011 PIAC made a submission to the Australian Productivity Commission inquiry into aged care (Caring for Older Australians), analysing the impact of regulation and competition on high care services in residential aged care. It recommended the Commission pay particular attention to the circumstances and needs of older people and their carers when they are seeking high care beds because these services are often accessed when the older person is in a particularly vulnerable situation. While supporting the use of alternative dispute resolution strategies as part of the management of aged care complaints, PIAC emphasised the need for an independent advocacy service to assist consumers and their carers with complaints, with the New Zealand Advocacy Service as a model. 

PIAC proposed the creation of a fair and transparent complaints process for aged care consumers. PIAC’s submission stressed the need to make the process more accountable, the importance of independent decision-making, the need to provide timely decisions, and the importance of how such decisions are communicated. It also considered an appropriate review process, particularly given the vulnerability of family members who often make complaints on behalf of an aged relative. 

The final report released in August 2011 recommended a new office of Commissioner for Complaints and Reviews as part of a larger independent body - the Australian Aged Care Commission. PIAC is satisfied that this body will be sufficiently independent, if the Government adopts the Productivity Commission’s recommendations, and if it were appropriately funded, PIAC would expect complaints about aged care would be determined impartially and transparently.

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