Radio interview with Minister Wells and Sarah Dingle, ABC RN, 20 December 2022

Read the transcript of Minister Wells' ABC RN interview on aged care home star ratings; A-League crowd incidents; FIFA Women's World Cup.

The Hon Anika Wells MP
Minister for Aged Care
Minister for Sport

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Health sector

Sarah Dingle: Have you ever had to make a decision on whether to put a loved one into an aged care home?

And if so, were you worried about whether they would be properly cared for? Over the last few years, we've been inundated with horror stories of mistreatment and neglect in the aged care sector and staff shortages, which have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic.

The government has released a new rating system to help increase transparency in the sector, but there are already serious criticisms. Aged Care and Sports Minister, Anika Wells joins us.

Minister, welcome back to Breakfast.

Anika Wells: Good morning, Sarah.

Sarah Dingle: Minister, there are calls for the star rating system to be pulled down already over concerns that some of the information on these individual homes is out of date. Can you see why that would be distressing for residents and for providers?

Anika Wells: Well, the data is absolutely not inaccurate. And this is the opposition saying this, and they would not know transparency if they looked through a window. So, I'm unsurprised to hear that on the the day we've launched our ratings, they asked for it to be pulled down and to have aged care sent back into the darkness when the reality, like you say, we are focused on residents, families and their experience in aged care.

Sunshine is the best disinfectant and this is the first time Australian families have ever had the opportunity to see this kind of data and feedback about residential aged care facilities when they make that decision about where they want to put their parents or when people make that decision about when they want to enter residential aged care.

Sarah Dingle: Okay. But the opposition has a point – don’t they? Because for example, the Blue Haven Bowen era aged care facility in Kiama in New South Wales had a three star rating overall four star compliance rating note saying it has no compliance issues in a year as at the end of September.

But last month this council owned facility was revealed to have failed six of eight compliance standards and there was an improvement notice issued. So that is that is out of date.

Anika Wells: But in that specific case, and there are some others that improvement notice is subject to a review period. That review period is on foot at the moment and once it's finalised it will be reflected on star rating.

So right now there's no final decision on that, which is why that's the way it is. But this data is updating, some of it's updated daily and all of it is being audited.

Sarah Dingle: So, Shadow Aged Care Minister Anne Ruston says the ratings should come down until you can be absolutely sure that everything is accurate and up to date. If there is a question over some of these things or are a note saying that the data is accurate as to the end of September, shouldn't there be, you know, some additional maybe, you know, a different category or some sort of notification to indicate to the public that there is perhaps an issue in play which is being worked through, which is still being assessed?

Anika Wells: Well, that is exactly why in those very small instances where there is genuinely something in question, that star rating is pulled with an explanatory note on the website until that can be resolved and then the star rating goes back up.

Sarah Dingle: So overall, around 91% of homes are rated three stars and above. And there's a lot of skepticism around that because we've heard so many troubling stories in aged care over the years.

How stringent have these assessments been to ensure that the three star and above aged care homes are actually adequate?

Anika Wells: Yeah, well, more than 60% of the data and information used to determine a star rating is independent. It comes from either the regulator looking at compliance measures or it comes from residents themselves.

We've interviewed across the board more than 20% of residents to ask them what their experience is like at a particular facility, what the food is like at a particular facility, and that is information that you can look up on my aged care and see more than 60% of that information is independent.

And I think what's important is it's comprehensive. You can click right through, if food is something that you really care about. You can click through to an independent and an individual facility and see what the experience is like there.

Ultimately, we are getting so much more information and therefore so much more power to residents and their families and honestly, I want this to spark a conversation. I'm ambitious for aged care.

I don't want three stars acceptable standards to be a ceiling like I think the previous government was prepared to leave it all. I want three stars acceptable standard to be the floor.

I want everyone to be reaching to be a four and five star standard facility. I want to lift the standard of aged care in Australia, but we can't improve what we can't measure.

And that's why Star Ratings is kicking in for the very first time this week is a vital part of that process.

Sarah Dingle: So how will you incentivise homes to achieve a better rating then of three stars is going to be the floor, not the ceiling?

Anika Wells: Well, because it's dynamic data and because people have the opportunity to work their way up the scale. So if they are a three star facility today, I think it's really timely we worked so hard to make sure that we could deliver this before Christmas because I know so many people are off to visit Nan this Christmas in the nursing home.

And I want this to spark a conversation about what we as Australians are prepared to accept by way of standards of care in aged care. I want this to be information to you, to have a discussion about how Nan is finding it and what you as an Australian taxpayer, an Australian citizen, is prepared for us to do to lift that standard of care.

I think we can be ambitious for aged care.

Sarah Dingle: And what if they don't, I mean, will they actually be punishments if there are serious issues, if homes that slip in their ratings slip down a significant amount and don't make any effort to pull themselves back up again.

Anika Wells: Yeah, absolutely. One and two star rated facilities are automatically referred to the regulator, and in many instances they're already aware of them because they've had compliance issues that they've failed.

Ultimately, there are sanctions and I guess ultimately if residential aged care facilities are not up to scratch, they can have their federal government funding pulled.

Sarah Dingle: I want to ask you about football as well, not just because everyone wants to talk about football at the moment, because you are the federal sports minister. You went to Qatar and you saw our national football team, men's team, the Socceroos at their absolute height.

But at home we've got a lot of people at home. We've got three people charged over violence at the A-League and we've got fans in uproar about mandatory finals and Sydney were supposed to be hosting the Women's World Cup in seven months.

Are you worried about the state of football administration and management in Australia?

Anika Wells: Two separate issues I think. I think Football Australia has acted really quickly from Saturday night to Sunday morning. When I spoke to the CEO, James Johnson, they were already on the case to make sure that the strongest possible reprimand and message was sent about that behaviour at the A-League, which was disgusting and not at all what we want, you know, four and five year old’s who are starting to love football and want to enter the system.

And what I want is for us to make the most of the momentum off the Socceroos success at the World Cup as we build to one of the biggest events in the world that will host in winter next year the Women's World Cup.

More than two and a half billion eyeballs will be upon us as a country. And Sam Kerr and the success of the Matildas, it's going to be brilliant. I think we need to act quickly now.

We've got six months to make sure that we really make the most of this historic opportunity.

Sarah Dingle: I do find it astonishing that we are so close to a Women's World Cup and there hasn't been any… like there's been no ads, there's been no preparation. We saw a bit of a piecemeal approach even to the men's World Cup at home.

New South Wales, for instance, only created a live site for Socceroos fans at the very last minute, which was very surprising. Are we ready? What are you going to do to ensure that we're ready?

Are we adequately prepared to host the world next year and to do the Matildas justice?

Anika Wells: Well, I had sort of two major reasons for going to Qatar. One was to support the Socceroos obviously, but the second was to spruik Australia hosting the Women's World Cup.

I did media on every continent promoting Australia as the host of the Women's World Cup and how brilliant that event was going to be. And I'm working now with Minister Wong, our Foreign Affairs Minister, about making the most of these opportunities because it is such a big opportunity for us and for our co-hosts and friendly rivals, New Zealand, to be doing this.

Like you say, we want to make sure that every possibility has been considered, whether it's live events hosted and activations hosted by our state governments, through to what opportunities we have on the world stage to promote Australia.

Sarah Dingle: So you'll be chasing up the states

Anika Wells: Yeah, definitely.

Sarah Dingle: Just finally, you've also said Australia will be in the spotlight. There will be scrutiny on us as there has been considerable scrutiny on Qatar, of course. How much scrutiny do you expect from the world about Australia's human rights record, particularly treatment of First Nations people.

Anika Wells: You know, we as Australians are committed to advancing human rights both at home and abroad. It's critical for us, you know, pursuing peace and stability and prosperity as a democracy.

And I also think that as an open, inclusive society, which we seek to be, which seeks to value human rights, we cannot be above scrutiny. And I was talking about this a lot in Qatar.

Like we need to be ready for that scrutiny to turn upon us when the world comes to us in winter next year for the Women's World Cup. So we engage in that work in a spirit of self-reflection and will continue to try and improve Australia's human rights record.

And that includes stepping up on Indigenous rights, on Indigenous reputation, on strengthening our response to modern slavery, to action on climate change, which is saying this week and addressing structural barriers to gender equality, particularly through that lens of the Women's World Cup.

Sarah Dingle: Minister, I'm sure we will have you back on the program before the Women's World Cup next year to talk sport many times.

Anika Wells: Thank you.

Sarah Dingle: That's the Minister for Aged Care and Sport, Anika Wells.



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