Sharp decline in trust in Australia’s aged care system

The Inside Aged Care Report 2021 shows sharp decline in Australians’ trust and confidence in the age care sector as Royal Commission report hits & COVID-19 challenges continue

Insights agency Faster Horses’ fourth annual Inside Aged Care report shows trust and confidence in the sector to be at the lowest levels seen since the initial study in 2018. Not only are Australians increasingly fearful about accessing care for themselves or a loved one, there is limited confidence that the sector has the capacity to drive the improvements needed as highlighted in the recent Royal Commission final report.

Proactive planning for ageing is too hard

From a consumer perspective, this low trust environment sees proactive planning for ageing and care arrangements put squarely in the ‘too hard’ basket and left for consideration in the increasingly distant future – too often culminating in complex living and care decisions needing to be made at a point of crisis.

The report uncovers the evolution of consumer perceptions

This is the 4th edition of the report. It takes the reader through the evolution of perceptions from pre-Royal Commission in 2018, to during Royal Commission in 2019 and now over the challenges of COVID-19 over 2020 & now 2021.

Including a robust, nationally representative sample of 2,333 people across Australia, the data (collected in May/June 2021) reveals that overall trust in the sector – despite building from 2018 to 2020 – has now collapsed to initial 2018 levels, with less than one in five Australians (19%) agreeing that they have a high degree of trust in the aged care sector. Of note, some 60% of Australians disagree that the sector is well regulated, suggesting a strong community appetite for genuine and meaningful regulatory reform.

Increasing numbers of care recipients feel vulnerable

Among those receiving any form of aged care, the 2021 study shows that there are increasingly proportions of care recipients feeling ‘vulnerable’, ‘apprehensive’ and ‘sad’, and a corresponding decline over the same period in terms of care recipients feeling ‘cared for’ and ‘in control’.

Family member satisfaction with care has declined

With the Royal Commission final report highlighting major failings in institutionalised care, the Federal government made significant provision for increased home care service funding in the most recent budget. Yet the 2021 study findings show that overall satisfaction among family members receiving home care has deteriorated to 69% being satisfied (a rating of 7 or higher out of 10) from the 75% observed in 2020. In terms of potential key drivers of reduced satisfaction for in-home care services, factors showing the largest decline since 2020 included ‘communication from the provider’ (59% satisfied, down from 67%), ‘the range of care/health services offers (59%, down from 66% and ‘the ability to easily change care arrangements if needed’ (58%, down from 67%).

Improvement in perceptions requires more than increased investment

Faster Horses Director of Social & Government, James Wunsch, said that the age care sector is being challenged on multiple fronts, and that increased investment alone will not improve public confidence and trust in the sector.

“There is no doubt that the cumulative impacts of the Royal Commission’s Aged Care final report and aged care residential facilities being impacted by COVID have eroded trust in the age care sector as a whole.  The trust deficit is large and will have considerable impacts on the sector as people likely delay connection with a system requiring significant and wide-spread reform.”

Providers who tailor experiences to individual needs will benefit

“But there is also opportunity there for those age care providers who address these concerns head on. Our report shows those providers who can better tailor the age care experience to the individual needs of the user – including the ability to offer flexibility and to scale service provision as needs change – can likely differentiate their service offer and show they are genuinely heeding the Royal Commission’s findings in transforming their operations and service delivery experience for their clients”.

Technology is key, but organisations need to upskill

“While our report shows most Australians are quite comfortable with new and emerging technologies to be leveraged in enhancing the quality of aged care service delivery, there are key concerns regarding both the need to ensure client privacy and dignity is maintained, and also the extent to which the sector as whole has the appropriate skills and training to deploy technology led aged care solutions in a way that can generate the tangible benefits envisioned”.

LASA agrees that there is a need to invest in the people working in the sector

“The latest Inside Aged Care report confirms the Australian community’s desire for our sector to embrace the challenges identified by the Royal Commission and to drive genuine reforms to ensure better care for older Australians – a pathway we are already taking action towards,” said LASA Chief Executive Officer Sean Rooney.

“This report underscores the need for the sector to continue to invest in our people, ensuring they have the skills, tools and knowledge to deliver consistent, high quality care. As an industry we know our workers are our greatest asset and we must have workforce development strategies in place to both invest in existing staff and to grow the aged care workforce into the future.”

Government and providers of aged care must work in partnership

“We cannot do this alone.  We need to work in genuine partnership with Government on the design and the delivery of all of the reforms – otherwise we run the risk of failure,”

This report is a must for forward thinking aged care suppliers

“The report will be an invaluable addition to the planning and marketing toolkit for every aged care provider and government agency across the nation,” he said.

The full report is available now, with a presentation of a selection of the key metrics being delivered at the LASA National Congress between 15 and 17 November 2021.

James Wunsch |Director, Social & Government |Faster Horses |M +61 412 601 797 |E

Sean Rooney |CEO LASA