Highlighting the role of Inspector General for Aged Care

Last updated on 17 May 2024

Written by Ian Yates AM, the Interim Inspector General of Aged Care for the hello leaders Summer-Autumn publication.

The creation of an independent Inspector General of Aged Care was a key recommendation of the Aged Care Royal Commission.

The Royal Commission believed it was important to continue to “shine a light” on the aged care system – which the Royal Commission itself had done – to make aged care more transparent and accountable, including to provide regular reports on the implementation of Royal Commission recommendations.

The Commission’s recommendation became a reality when the Office of the Inspector General of Aged Care (OIGAC) became an independent statutory agency of the Commonwealth Government on 16 October 2023, following the proclamation of the Inspector General of Aged Care Act, which passed Federal Parliament in August 2023. 

From late January 2023, I had been the Interim Inspector General, supported by the Interim Office. For that period we were legally a branch of the Department of Health, located in the Corporate Services group of the Department, separate from the Ageing and Aged Care Group but still legally subject to Departmental and Ministerial direction and without any special powers.

Since 16 October, the OIGAC is a separate government agency, no longer part of the Department, and not subject to direction by Ministers as to what we do and how to go about our role and functions. The Inspector General and OIGAC oversight the whole aged care system:

  • How well our aged care laws and regulations work, or not; 
  • How they are implemented by bodies like the Department, the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission, and the Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority; 
  • How well aged care processes and systems work; 
  • Oversee if funded services and programs are achieving their purposes;
  • How complaints management processes are working across the aged care system; and
  • To annually report on implementation of Royal Commission recommendations and periodically review how this is going.

The Act gives the Inspector General and OIGAC significant powers. These include compulsory information gathering powers if needed to obtain any relevant information; to interview officials and other relevant people; to require responses to formal recommendations and include those in our reports; and to report to Parliament through the Minister, who must table our reports in both Houses within a certain period.

No one can tell the Inspector General not to review or report on any matter which they have power to investigate under the Act. No one can tell the Inspector General how or when to review or report on any issue, or what to say. 

We will monitor what is happening in the aged care system through a wide variety of channels, including through the regular provision of information by the Department and the Quality and Safety Commission; through consultation with older people and their families, with aged care providers and the aged care workforce, with stakeholder peak bodies; and through monitoring of media of all forms and levels. 

We will undertake formal Reviews of matters of concern that fall within our functions. These will be comprehensive ‘deep dives’ into an issue or area or any matter decided by the Inspector General. The process to be followed for Reviews is set out in the Act.

Reviews will result in a draft report for consideration and response from relevant officials or other people, then a final report to the Minister for tabling in parliament and publication on the OIGAC website.

We have already announced that our first Review, to be undertaken in the first half of this year, will be into the administration of My Aged Care. It will examine whether My Aged Care is fit for purpose in facilitating access to aged care services for older people regardless of their level of ability, cultural background, or language. 

My Aged Care is the entry point to all Government-funded aged care and its essential that it works well for older people who need timely and appropriate support and care.    

Over the coming months, we will also be preparing a major report (as required by the Act) on the implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, including a status report on all 148 recommendations as at 31 December 2023 and findings on the degree and quality of progress in key areas, including access by older people needing support and care to those services.

As the Interim Office we already prepared, and provided to the Government in July 2023, an initial Progress Report on Royal Commission recommendations which can be found on the Health & Aged Care website.  

We can also decide to provide reports on any other matters that fall within our specified functions, which could cover any of the aspects of the system to which I outlined above. At the moment a number of possibilities suggested by stakeholders are under consideration. 

The Inspector General will certainly be alert to shortfalls and failures in the aged care system, particularly those which are persistent and/or pervasive. And, we also want to identify, promote and recommend ways to encourage and replicate innovation, excellence and best practice. It exists but it should be the norm, and we need to develop ways to make that the case. 

In this process we want people in the sector to engage with us, to suggest matters we could focus upon and provide us with your experience and knowledge about what’s wrong and what’s right.  You can contact us by email at [email protected] or by mail to Office of the Inspector-General of Aged Care, PO Box 350, Woden ACT 2606. 

For more information please visit the OIGAC website at www.igac.gov.au.

Ian Yates is the Acting Inspector-General of Aged Care in the Australian Government. Prior to becoming Interim Inspector General Ian was Chief Executive of Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia, the national peak consumer body for older Australians. Ian was a Director of Livable Housing Australia and the Aged Rights Advocacy Service. He remains the Chair of the Management Committee of the Australasian Journal on Ageing.

Department of Health and Aged Care
ian yates
aged care governance
aged care royal commission
Inspector General of Aged Care
aged care analysis