Pushing the horizons – comparing care for older people in the UK and Australia

Following a visit from the Royal Commission into Aged Care in Australia to TLAP, to explore how social care is for older people, Sanchi Murison reflects on what she learnt.

One of the things that I enjoy most about my job (amongst many,) is the rare opportunity to meet people from abroad and hear about different experiences of social care.

We recently welcomed Lynelle Briggs and Sara Samios from the Australian Royal Commission into Aged Care to find out about our approach to community-based support and to tell us something about how it is down under. In just over two weeks Lynelle and Sara visited eight countries and heard from many different people about the state of care for older people. They had apparently heard very good things about TLAP and were keen to find more about us.

The Royal Commission was established because of concern over the quality of (what they describe as) aged care and a sense that quality has gone backwards. Their brief is incredibly wide and their recommendations will cover workforce issues, finance, regulation, technology and “anything else they feel like”. Perhaps unlike the UK, they expect their government to accept all their recommendations, so it feels like a real opportunity to make a change for the better.

Despite living on opposite sides of the world, we share many common problems -including the fact that older people generally get a bad press, the inequities of eligibility criteria, and how access to services is reduced whilst waiting lists grow - as well as the constant battle for resources. The enormous size of Australia and its rural nature outside the major conurbations create additional pressures there.

The Royal Commission is expected to provide a clear rationale to get more money into the sector and to recommend transformational approaches such as TLAP advocates. We were able to describe Making it Real and how that makes a difference to people’s experience, talk about the innovative work providers on our directory of community-centred support are doing, and have an interesting discussion about health inequalities and citizens’ rights and responsibilities.

In a situation where the system is not meeting the needs of the older community in either Australia or the UK, we agreed that a social movement to re-frame the conversation about what social care means and how it changes people’s lives is much needed. Luckily, we have social care future blazing a trail here.

What a fascinating afternoon; no wonder I love my job.    

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