Recruitment for an Aged Care Commissioner will start next month, to ensure greater oversight of New Zealand’s aged care sector.
“This sector is responsible for supporting a large and often vulnerable population. While most people are able to access quality care, there have been cases where that care has fallen short, and this is an opportunity to identify areas for improvement,” said Minister for Seniors and Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall.
“Several reports have identified issues in the sector, ranging from the complexity of the complaints process, to feeling fearful of the repercussions from raising issues, and the lack of visibility around service provided by home and community support providers.
“The Aged Care Commissioner will be in place within the next 6 months, delivering on our manifesto commitment and giving older people, their friends and whānau greater confidence in the quality and safety of services,” Ayesha Verrall said.
In 2020/21, the Health and Disability Commissioner and the Advocacy Service received 259 complaints about aged residential care, and 147 complaints about home and community support services. Communication issues were the most common theme, including failure to communicate effectively with family. Inadequate care and treatment issues were also among the most common concerns raised.
“The current system to ensure quality and safety in the sector is fragmented, and it can be complicated navigating services to get help. This disconnect has made it difficult for those who want to make a complaint about aged care to speak up, be heard, and receive a timely response.
“The Aged Care Commissioner will proactively provide leadership and advocacy for systemic change across the entire sector, and be a recognisable figure for resolving complaints,” Ayesha Verrall said.
The new role will sit within the Health and Disability Commissioner’s office.
“The right person for this role will ideally have a deep understanding of aged care services and consumers’ experiences.
“Aged care services include functions such as needs assessment, rehabilitation, home and community support services, support for carers, and aged residential care.
“We need to make sure older New Zealanders experience consistent, quality care that’s culturally appropriate for everyone, particularly our Māori and Pacific communities.
“Our country has an ageing population, and it is projected that by 2034 there will be 1.2 million people in New Zealand aged 65 and over. Although many older people are living healthier for longer, demand for aged care services is also expected to increase.
“The Aged Care Commissioner will be critical to improving the aged care system for the wellbeing of those reliant on this help, and those closest to them,” said Ayesha Verrall.
More information about the process for appointments can be found at https://dpmc.govt.nz/publications/appointments-process
The Government has allocated $8.1 million over the next four financial years for the creation of the Aged Care Commissioner role and its ongoing operation.
This includes some funding for the Ministry’s HealthCERT, to handle additional complaints.
The role will sit under the Health and Disability Commissioner, as a Deputy Commissioner and cover: Strategic oversight and stronger sector leadership to drive quality improvement in collaboration with other agencies; Report on emerging issues and thematic improvements in the aged care sector; Enhanced advocacy on behalf of older consumers and their whānau and support the Government’s commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.