Aged Care Royal Commissioner Tony Pagone has taken up a role as patron of a new not-for-profit organisation that provides older people receiving aged care with access to appropriate legal support.

ALARM (Aged Care Legal Advocacy & Reform Matter) was established as a registered charity in October 2020 by senior legal and medical professionals to promote the welfare of aged care residents and drive law reform in the sector.

It plans in the future to extend its services to those receiving home care, Vice President Sue Williamson told Community Care Review.

The organisation provides access to lawyers with the appropriate expertise and skills, supports families and promotes legal education.

Enforcing legal rights

ALARM chair Dr Bryan Keon-Cohen QC says elderly people who have suffered financial, emotional or physical abuse in aged care facilities often require legal assistance, which ALARM facilitates through its free referral services.

The legal community has an important role to play in enforcing aged care residents’ legal rights in Australia, he said.

“Residents often feel vulnerable and need support to determine their legal rights.”

“Many are unlikely or unable to complain about abusive practices due to a range of factors, including fear of retribution from their provider or diminished capacity.”

Driving aged care reform

Mr Pagone, who is also a former federal court judge, welcomed the opportunity to act as a patron to ALARM.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to act as patron to an organisation addressing the inadequacies identified by the royal commission and contributing to the reform of the aged care sector by ensuring Australia’s most vulnerable people have access to legal support and services,” he said in a statement.

Mr Keon-Cohen said the organisation was delighted to welcome Mr Pagone.

“He will take on the important role of patron to a dedicated cohort of volunteer students, lawyers, law firms and academics working together to eliminate the unacceptable levels of neglect, and improve accountability and governance in aged care.” Dr Keon-Cohen said.

Dr Keon-Cohen called on the federal government to consult with ALARM in its reform of the Aged Care Act.

“Common sense reforms” including staff training and remuneration and residents’ nutrition were priorities, he said.

“ALARM has the depth of experience and expertise to actively participate in drafting necessary reforms and is seeking representation in government law reform processes now underway,” he said.

ALARM is supported by allied law firms and community groups around Australia that specialise in aged care, with volunteer law students from Monash University providing secretariat and research assistance.

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