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Long haul to reform aged care begins with $452 million package


New aged care laws and extra audits to check on safety and quality at facilities are among the federal government’s first responses to a royal commission into the sector.

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The government has announced an initial $452 million to bolster the sector, with more funding flagged in the May federal budget.

The royal commission has made 148 recommendations to the Morrison government, including new laws to protect the rights of elderly people and increased regulator powers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the values, rights and needs of older Australians need to be at the centre of aged care.

He said the findings provided the government with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the system.

“It will test my government, the budget and test the parliament,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“It will test the way in which we are prepared to deal with this issue.”

Health Minister Greg Hunt said $18 million would go towards tougher oversight of the government’s home care packages, which allow older Australians to continue living at home with extra support.

Some $32 million will go to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission and more regulation on the use of restraints in care.

Nearly $190 million will go to residential care providers and $90 million to create a fund to help facilities facing financial challenges.

Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said the royal commission had made him question how the system works in Australia.

“We need to look at a fundamental reform of the system,” he said.

The final report was released on Monday after two years of the inquiry hearing harrowing tales of neglect across Australia.

In November, the government promised $537 million towards fixing problems in aged care, weeks after the royal commission’s damning interim report.

Federal Labor says it will take time to go through the royal commission’s final report and recommendations.

The opposition’s aged care spokeswoman Clare O’Neil is worried the government won’t fix the sector.

“I hope with all my heart that the government actually sees this as an opportunity to do the right thing, after eight years of neglecting this sector, cutting $1.7 billion out of it,” she told reporters in Melbourne.

“What I heard from Scott Morrison didn’t give me a lot of hope … this is the person who cut funding to the sector and then turned around surprised when standards slipped.”

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