See More

Australian social workers welcome the Royal Commission into aged care

Published: 19 September 2018

Experiences shared on Tuesday night’s 4 Corners program are devastating, but do not come as a shock to Australia’s social workers. The AASW welcomes the announcement on the weekend of a Royal Commission into aged care and hopes it will address the cultural changes that are needed to correct a range of failings.

AASW National President Christine Craik said, “Social workers have a long tradition of working with older Australians in supporting healthy positive ageing and would like to see the Royal Commission take a holistic approach to wellness, including a focus on emotional wellbeing and social connectedness.

“There are systemic issues in our institutionalised care of older Australians. When profit is often put before holistic and decent care, social workers and the work we do towards connectedness and emotional and physical wellbeing, is not seen as a priority.

“Without proper funding and resources, using skilled and trained social workers, holistic case management does not occur and those most vulnerable are often left isolated and disconnected. This has serious consequences for the mental health and wellbeing of many older Australians receiving support and care in residential settings, as well as in the community.

“The quality of care depends on a number of key elements. One is resourcing and staffing; coupled with the skills and experience of those staff.

“Another is improved effectiveness and quality of overseeing bodies. They need to be more accessible to consumers, and their families, more responsive to their concerns and they need to have powers to enforce improvements in care.

“Lastly, staff need to be skilled at identifying emotional and social, as well as physical and wellbeing issues for the people in their care, including elder abuse. There needs to be more attention to the ways of reporting, investigating allegations and responding to elder abuse. It is a complex issue and the sector as a whole needs to better understand the factors that contribute to it and the forms it takes.”

The AASW calls on the Royal Commission to work with stakeholders to identify and create a culture throughout the aged care sector that gives priority to the voice of the older people and enables them to exercise control over the care they receive.

Ms Craik said, “Social workers are integral to services that cater for the health and wellbeing of older Australians in all settings across the aged care continuum including government, non-government organisations, hospitals, health settings and private practice. Social workers are skilled in recognising people’s strengths as the first step in building capacity and creating opportunities for change, in people and in organisations.

“While social work has a long tradition of working in aged care, the push for aged care facilities to make a profit means that social work, alongside many other trained professions, has been pushed out.

“It’s not rocket science; there needs to be much higher standards, much better quality control and many more skilled professionals paid to work in these facilities.”

The AASW has previously participated in many previous inquiries and taskforces aimed at improving care and looks forward to contributing to this Royal Commission. We hope that this step will result in the better outcomes that we all seek for older people requiring care and support now and into the future.

You can read our February 2018 submission Inquiry into the Quality of Care in Residential Aged Care Facilities in Australia.

Christine Craik is available for interview.

Media contact
Angela Yin
Communications Lead
P 03 9320 1005 M 0413 532 954

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers