Advertisement

Aged Care Inquiry Whistleblowers To Be Protected

The Aged Care Royal Commission is encouraging people to continue to share their experiences in the sector.

A royal commissioner has promised to protect whistleblowers who fear retribution from their employer or an aged-care provider if they help the inquiry.

Commissioner Richard Tracey QC said a number of people have raised concerns about not being identified or the potential impact of talking with the royal commission on their families.

He assured them they will be protected, as he encouraged aged care workers, the families of residents and other members of the public to come forward.

READ MORE: Left In Soiled Clothes: Family Shocked At Aged Care Home Care

"Let there be no doubt, the royal commission will not hesitate to take steps within its powers to ensure that witnesses and those otherwise engaging with us are protected in accordance with the Royal Commissions Act or the common law," Tracey said.

PM Scott Morrison and Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt announce a Royal Commission into Aged Care in September 2018. Image: Mick Tsikas/AAP.

Tracey said it is a criminal offence for a person to 'injure' someone who has appeared as a witness, produced a document or given information or response in response to a royal commission summons or notice.

"Were an employer to seek to deter a person from assisting us, this may give rise to an offence," he said.

"If, for example, an institution or individual sought any form of legal redress against a member of the public or of their staff acting as a whistleblower seeking to volunteer information to us, that would result in very close attention being given to the lawfulness of that conduct and the motives behind it.

READ MORE: Hidden Restraints, Unthinkable Assaults: Horrors Of Aged Care System Exposed

The former Federal Court judge said the offence was not limited to employers. He said the commission would "view seriously" any prejudice suffered by someone who provided a written submission or participated in a community engagement program.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Gray QC said inquiry staff will continue to investigate issues raised during its hearing into residential aged care and dementia, which ended on Friday.

The Sydney hearing included a focus on the use of physical and chemical restraints in aged care facilities.

"While data on the use of all restraints is limited, the evidence indicates that despite the dangers associated with restraint, both forms are far more prevalent than is clinically safe," Mr Gray said.

The royal commission's next hearing will be held in Broome and Perth in June. The hearing will focus on aged care for indigenous Australians, person-centred care and the delivery of aged care in remote locations.