Disability Royal Commission hears teenager was left with severe disability after being given psychotropic medication


Oliver McGowan was a school prefect, played representative football and athletics and was training to become a Paralympian.

But the Royal Commission into Disability today heard how that all changed.

His mother today gave evidence about how her teenaged son, who lived with autism, focal partial epilepsy and an intellectual disability, was told by a neurologist he had full life expectancy and would eventually live independently.

But Oliver’s quality of life drastically deteriorated after he was prescribed a drug he and his parents begged doctors not to give him.

After suffering seizures in December 2015, today’s hearing was told Oliver was given psychotropic drug Olanzapine in a UK hospital, despite not having been diagnosed with psychosis or a mental illness.

Psychotropic medication refers to any drug capable of affecting the mind, emotions, or behaviour, including anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and mood stabilisers.

His mother, Paula McGowan, who now lives in Newcastle, gave evidence at the royal commission in Sydney today as it examined the use of psychotropic medication on people with disabilities.

Oliver McGowen with his parents Tom and Paula.(Supplied)

The extent of reliance on such medication and its effects on the health and wellbeing of people with disabilities will be under scrutiny throughout the hearing.

Ms McGowan told the commission the effect of the drugs on Oliver was catastrophic.

“We were told by the doctors that Oliver’s brain was so badly swollen it was bulging out the base of his skull … Oliver was now profoundly disabled,” she said.

“That beautiful smile that we saw earlier, his sense of humour … were gone forever.

A man in hospital
Oliver McGowan was given psychotropic medication after suffering seizures.(Supplied)

“The doctors told us that Oliver had no chance of recovery or return.

“Cruelly, Oliver was reassured that this would not happen, and his voice was not heard and it cost him his life.”

In November 2016, at the age of 18, Oliver died in Bristol, England, due to a combination of pneumonia and hypoxic brain injury.

Ms McGowan told the commission she hoped sharing Oliver’s story could lead to the Australian Government implementing standardised mandatory training for healthcare workers.

“It’s not fair that professionals, clinicians, are not given the education and skills required to help them and enable patients with intellectual disability and autism to have better healthcare outcomes,” Ms McGowan said.

The commission heard there were 177,000 reports of unauthorised use of chemical restraints on NDIS participants in 2019-2020.

This does not mean the use of the drug was illegal, but that it was administered without prior approval from the patient in an emergency.

Oliver’s death was covered by the UK media and sparked a review by the National Health Service.

Ms McGowan told the commission she had made ground through a campaign overseas, with the UK Government last year committing to introducing mandatory training in learning disability and autism for healthcare workers.

She is pushing for a similar program to be adopted in Australia.

“The key lessons that could be applied in Australia are awareness, training and communication,” she said.

“It’s vital that the patient is kept at the heart of all decision-making,”

The hearing continues.



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Paul Keating tells royal commission HECS-style loans should fund home aged care


Former prime minister Paul Keating has laid out a HECS-style loan plan aimed at covering home care costs for elderly Australians who do not want to go into a nursing home.

Giving evidence to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety on Monday, Mr Keating said a Commonwealth-run post-paid system could reduce wait times for home care packages and ease the financial burden on families.

He likened it to the HECS loans given to university students that are only paid back once they graduate and reach an income threshold.

“The Commonwealth could then advance as loans to every aged Australian so much as to meet their needs in support services to stay at home or alternatively in care accommodation,” Mr Keating said.

“Then, upon your death — and no earlier — there would be a credit to that loan account from the estate of the deceased person.

“The Commonwealth account would then receive a credit … so we’re not forcing anyone out of their home.”

Mr Keating previously called for a scheme to help the elderly access aged care services.(ABC Central West: Melanie Pearce)

As of March this year, about 100,000 Australians were waiting for a home care package at the level to which they had been assessed, the royal commission has heard.

“These are aged people; they’re likely to die in the period.”

Mr Keating, 76, has previously called for a scheme to help Australia’s elderly access aged care services.

He was treasurer when HECS was first introduced in 1989.

Loan scheme ‘hard to sell’

Councils on the Ageing (COTA) Australia chief executive Ian Yates told the royal commission he was open to Mr Keating’s loan scheme idea.

“I think at the theoretical level it’s certainly worth exploring … the devil will always be in the detail,” Mr Yates said.

National Senior Australia chief executive John McCallum said the loan idea might be “hard to sell”.

“I think the sort of trouble we’ve had … from a consumer point of view [is] it’s a difficult one to get to understand,” Professor McCallum said.

Little link between funding and spending

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety heard residential care providers receive $12.4 billion from the Federal Government and individuals each year.

However, there are no requirements to spend that money on care.

“Residential care providers’ annual reporting requirements do not adequately reveal how that money is used or what profit or loss is made in providing residential care services,” counsel assisting the royal commission Peter Gray QC said.

A man wearing a suit stands and speaks in a court room
Peter Gray says there should be more rigorous financial reporting around care funding.(ABC News)

Home-care providers receive $2.5 billion from the Commonwealth each year but do not report how they spend it, the inquiry heard.

Mr Gray said a Department of Health survey found in 2018-19 home care providers spent enough for 15 minutes per fortnight on nursing and allied health care, even for the most needy people.

An interim report to the royal commission from accounting firm BDO found some aged care providers were delivering substandard care while increasing profits.

“There is at present no systemic means at which … particular amounts and therefore sufficient amounts of public funding intended for care is actually spent on care,” Mr Gray said.

Aged care homes hold over $30 billion in Refundable Aged Care Deposits (RADs), the royal commission heard.

The bonds are deposited to the aged care provider before someone moves into a nursing home.



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Uhuru Kenyatta transfers Kenya Meat Commission to Ministry of Defence


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Uhuru Kenyatta transfers Kenya Meat Commission to Ministry of Defence

Steers are moved using a forklift at the Kenya Meat Commission’s (KMC) Athi River plant in Machakos on April 4, 2017. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | NMG 

Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya has directed Livestock Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai to facilitate the transfer of Kenya Meat Commission (KMC) to the Ministry of Defence following an order by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The cash-strapped State firm will now be run by the military in a move aimed at boosting its operations and ensuring survival.

“Following the transfer of ministerial responsibility of the Kenya Meat Commission to the Ministry of Defence by the President, you are directed to facilitate a seamless transfer of Kenya Meat Commission to the Ministry of Defence,” he said in a memo dated September 7.

The government-owned meat processor is operating below capacity and is grappling with an unreliable supply of raw material and an ageing plant, which has slowed down its operations.

The memo to the PS was also copied to KMC Managing Commissioner James Ole Seriani while directing him to submit a report to him in 14 days on progress made.

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“Ensure that you coordinate the entire exercise with the National Treasury and transfer the associated budgets at the next scheduled supplementary budgets,” the memo added. 

The Athi River-based plant slaughters 200 cattle per week, despite it having the capacity to process the same number of animals per day.

In June, the government said it would inject Sh80 million into upgrading the KMC factory in the next financial year even as it planned to sell it to a strategic investor.

This was the second year in a row that the Treasury had allocated the amount for refurbishment of the Athi River-based meat processor.

The State Department for Livestock spent Sh80 million out of Sh190 million that parliament had allocated last financial year on the factory upgrade.

The government had previously announced that it would commence the process of selling KMC following the formation of a task force to come up with a privatisation plan.

KMC is among 26 parastatals earmarked for sale to strategic investors by the Privatisation Commission.

The State reckons that privatisation will make it economically viable and boost export of Kenya’s animal products.

In 2016, the government allocated Sh650 million for laying off KMC staff and upgrading its abattoir.



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Charlemagne – The contradiction at the heart of the European Commission | Europe


THE ECONOMIST is fond of handy descriptions. Sometimes, we admit, they can be a bit obvious (“Xi Jinping, the president of China”; “Goldman Sachs, a bank”). Occasionally, they aim to amuse (“Homer Simpson, an American philosopher”, or “Popeye, a sailor man”). But coming up with one for the European Commission is distinctly tricky.

After all, the commission does a bit of everything. It is the closest thing the EU has to a government, putting forward legislation (which then has to be approved by the European Parliament and national ministers). It has the trappings of one, too: Ursula von der Leyen, its president, will give a state-of-the-union address in front of the Parliament later this month. At times the commission is a referee, ensuring both business and governments follow EU rules. Sometimes it is a broker, forging compromise between sparring member states. From the perspective of some national capitals, it is a civil service, following the agenda of the European Council, the club of EU leaders which settles the political direction of the bloc. Bureaucrats in Brussels should be little more than dry technocrats, in this view. Different descriptions lead to different expectations—and different types of annoyance when they are not met. Boiled down, it is an issue of politics versus technocracy.

These tensions came to a head in the case of Phil Hogan, Ireland’s commissioner and the EU’s trade chief, who resigned last month. During a trip home, Mr Hogan attended a lockdown-busting dinner with lots of golf-loving Irish bigwigs. For a political body, such as Ireland’s government, the response was obvious: voters were baying for blood and had to be sated. An Irish minister who attended the banquet resigned, while guilty senators lost the whip. For a technocracy, it was more complicated. Brussels is supposed to be above national politics: Irish voters may have been upset about the actions of “Big Phil”, but most Europeans could not pick the six-foot-five-inch politician out of a line-up. Commissioners such as Mr Hogan can be sacked only by Mrs von der Leyen. If she had heeded Irish calls, the commission’s independence would have been damaged; if she had ignored them, she would have looked contemptuous of voters. Luckily, Mr Hogan jumped, sparing Mrs von der Leyen a difficult choice.

Such problems are common in a body that cannot decide whether it is a political entity or a technocratic one. It often ends up doing an awkward impression of both. What began as an independent monitor overseeing the dreary business of coal and steel production now helps to determine its members’ budgets. The politicisation of the commission became more explicit under Jean-Claude Juncker, its previous head. This mindset still prevails internally. Decisions such as whether to punish a country for overspending are inherently political, runs the argument. Pretending that they can be dealt with by neutral technocrats is absurd. “There has to be political ownership,” says one official. “It can’t be about numbers into a calculator.” At the same time, there are some areas, such as competition policy, that are for the most part left untouched by politics—a status that must be taken on trust by voters and national governments.

Not all are happy with this compromise. During the long negotiations over a €750bn ($890bn) recovery fund for the EU this summer, one of the main sticking-points was a lack of trust in the commission. Allowing countries such as France, Portugal and Spain leeway in their budgets may have been popular in Europe’s south, but it upset Dutch politicians, for whom the calculator approach is just fine. Politicisation throws up conflicts of interest, critics argue. The commission is the first responder if a member state shows signs of drifting from democratic norms. Yet Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who has enthusiastically dismantled checks and balances, has been sheltered in part by belonging to the European People’s Party (EPP), the same European political alliance as Mrs von der Leyen and her two predecessors.

Though the principle of the commission’s independence is constantly proclaimed, party politics is never far from the surface. Mrs von der Leyen owes her job to her membership of the EPP. Jobs in the commission are carefully divided along partisan and national lines. But if this is acknowledged, complaints follow. In July a two-second appearance by Mrs von der Leyen in a political video for Croatia’s centre-right governing party—part of the EPP—triggered a row in Brussels. When the commission is involved, European politics resembles a scene in “Doctor Strangelove”: “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” Nationality still matters, too. Commissioners are supposed to leave their passports at the door, but the subtle scrap among member states for Mr Hogan’s powerful job (and Irish despair at having potentially lost it) suggests otherwise.

On a commission

Those who dream of a return to technocracy are out of luck. If politics follows money, then the commission will become more political. It will oversee the issuance of €750bn in collective debt and monitor how the proceeds are spent. That will leave the EU itself with a bigger stack of debt than any of its member states bar Italy, France and Germany. But politics without democracy is not ideal. The experiment of allowing the European Parliament to pick the commission’s president, in effect, was aborted last year after EU leaders balked at Manfred Weber, the German MEP the system put forward. Instead, Mrs von der Leyen got the job after much haggling, as was customary when the commission was a more technocratic institution. When appointing the head of a civil service, the lack of a democratic mandate does not matter; when selecting the head of a de facto government, it does. Working out which role to embrace is essential if the commission wants to avoid impossible expectations. Until then, it will have to live with an unflattering description: a contradiction.

This article appeared in the Europe section of the print edition under the headline “Politicians or technocrats?”

Reuse this contentThe Trust Project



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Ireland ‘to put Mairead McGuinness & Andrew McDowell forward’ to replace Phil Hogan at EU Commission


The Irish government is set to put forward Mairead McGuinness and Andrew McDowell as candidates to be the country”s next EU commissioner, sources have confirmed to Euronews.

A vacancy arose after Phil Hogan – Ireland’s last EU commissioner – resigned from the trade portfolio amid controversy over a breach of local COVID-19 restrictions on a recent trip home.

MEP McGuinness, who is vice-president of the European Parliament and outgoing European Investment Bank vice-president McDowell both have strong EU credentials.

It will then be up to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to assess them, and potentially reshuffle her cabinet posts to accommodate the new Irish commissioner. It is possible that Ireland will lose the prestigious trade portfolio.

Once a candidate is chosen, MEPs will grill the nominee before they can pack their bags for Brussels.



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Aged care royal commission hears number of quality checks on aged homecare providers has declined



Quality checks on aged homecare providers have declined, despite the watchdogs responsible being given at least $6.5 million to hire more assessors, a royal commission has heard.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care was shown documents that revealed 181 quality reviews of aged homecare providers were conducted from April to June 2019, but that number fell to 24 in July to September this year.

Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray QC told the inquiry the data showed “a remarkable reduction in the number of quality reviews, and assessment contacts in home services”.

Responsibility for quality in aged care was transferred from the Federal Department of Health to the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission (ACQSC) on January 1 this year.

The inquiry heard money from three sources was provided to increase compliance with aged homecare standards.

This included allocations of $2.4 million to hire more assessors in the 2019-20 financial year, and $4.1 million to improve monitoring of homecare services.

In its written response to the royal commission, the ACQSC said it was using the money to increase its homecare service compliance activity — but the change was progressing “more slowly than planned”.

Mr Gray asked ACQSC head Janet Anderson: “Isn’t it more the case that any program for increasing the level of compliance activity … hasn’t progressed more slowly, it’s actually gone backwards?”

“There is no doubt that we have put additional effort into the work being undertaken … in terms of a strengthened approach to understanding risk across the sector and undertaking targeted approaches to individual providers where we are concerned about the profile,” she replied.

Mr Gray pressed on: “Well, I’m not sure if I follow … hasn’t compliance activity declined since the preceding financial year?”

“I think the point you are making is valid … regulatory activity in so far as you would include quality reviews and assessment contacts, as reported, have declined,” Ms Anderson replied.

Earlier this week the inquiry heard calls for a major shift in how Australians care for the elderly.

Mr Gray said the overwhelming majority of elderly people would prefer to age in their own homes.

But by the time they turn 80, one in five will be living in residential aged care.

The commission was told that Australia has one of the highest percentages of elderly people living in institutional care of any developed country.



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Jose K Mani led group is real Kerala Congress (M), rules Election Commission


New Delhi: The Election Commission has issued a majority verdict saying the group led by Jose K Mani is the Kerala Congress (M) and entitled to use its name and reserved symbol ‘Two Leaves’.

Ashok Lavasa, who vacated the office of the Election Commissioner on Monday to join the Asian Development Bank, gave a dissent order, saying that till the time fresh affidavits of support are not called in, neither of the two factions can be recognised as the Kerala Congress (M).

 

In its majority order, the Commission said Jose K Mani has the support of the majority in legislature and organisational wings of the party, sources said.

The other faction is led by P J Joseph.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora and Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra gave the order that the group led by Jose K Mani is the Kerala Congress (Mani) and is entitled to use its name and its reserved symbol “Two Leaves” for the purposes of the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968.

They were of the view that fresh affidavits were not needed, the sources said.

 

Lavasa was of the view that while some members of the party have given affidavits of support to both the sides, some of the affidavits were not clear on the issue of support, sources aware of the developments said on Tuesday.

They said Lavasa had flagged the issue of deficiencies in the affidavits in the first week of July based on a written report by the EC’s law department.

Lavasa reiterated his stand, this time in the form of an order, in the last week of August.

The dispute in the party had started between vice chairman Jose and working chairman Joseph following the death of party chairman K M Mani last year.

 

The matter reached the poll panel late last year and the last hearing was held in February this year.



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Aged care royal commission hears how home care should be an urgent priority


The Royal Commission into Aged Care has heard calls for a major shift in how Australians care for the elderly.

Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Gray QC said the overwhelming majority of elderly people would prefer to age in their own homes.

But by the time they turn 80, one in five will be living in residential aged care.

The commission was told that Australia has one of the highest percentages of elderly people living in institutional care of any developed country.

“The figures … do suggest our system is distorted towards institutional care and away from community and home care,” Mr Gray said.

“There should be far more urgent efforts to prioritise home care over residential care.”

He said there will always be a place for high-quality residential care but research showed it was not generally the setting a person would choose.

The inquiry heard the COVID-19 pandemic was likely to reinforce the general preference to remain at home.

Mr Gray said the latest figures showed there have been seven deaths among nearly a million people receiving Federal-subsidised home and community care during the pandemic.

By comparison, there have been 412 deaths among the 200,000 people in residential aged care in Australia.

Over the next three days, the royal commission will examine what needs to be put in place to deliver high-quality and safe care to older people in their homes and in the community.

The inquiry heard a 2015 study found that each hour of additional home care each week, there was a 6 per cent reduction in the chance of that person every having to enter residential care.

“Home care should in this manner act as a stitch in time, preventing or at least allaying much more weighty problems for the individual and much more costly forms of care,” Mr Gray said.

The inquiry heard that while the number of people who want to be cared for in their own home is rising, many are not getting the help they need in a timely fashion.

More than half of those who have applied for home care packages for more complex needs have been waiting more than a year.

The royal commission will look at whether family members caring for elderly relatives at home and in the community could be given access to extra leave and flexible working arrangements.

As the hearing was underway, the Federal Government announced more than $70 million in extra funding to support older Australians who are temporarily moving out of residential aged care to live with their families due to concerns about COVID-19.

‘It’s a job’

Angela Finn has been caring for her 87-year-old mother, Pam, since bringing her home from residential aged care in April due to the pandemic.

Working from home has made it possible but she’s had to cut back her work hours to four days a week.

(Left to right) Pam’s grand-daughter Madeleine, daughter Angela Finn, Pam Bryce, and other daughter Liz Carrasco.(ABC News: Ursula Malone)

“That’s been a financial loss but we’re wearing it because caring for mum is just like having a child, it’s a job,” she said.

She said having access to extended leave and flexible hours would make a big difference.

“That would be so beneficial because people wouldn’t have to sacrifice financially,” she said.

Ms Finn said in between work and caring for her mother, it was hard to find the time to research what services are available.

“There’s so much out there, it’s so hard to navigate,” she said.

“Extra leave would have been good so I could have accessed the services quicker.”



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AFL 2020: Grand Final venue, start time, night Grand Final, Gabba, Brisbane, Optus Stadium, Adelaide Oval, AFL Commission


The AFL Commission is expected to select the Gabba as the host of the 2020 AFL Grand Final, under lights, on Tuesday.

The AFL executive team, including CEO Gillon McLachlan and fixturing boss Travis Auld, will give their recommendation to the Commission in an early morning meeting, who’ll then make the call. The decision is likely to be officially announced on Wednesday or Thursday.

The Herald Sun’s Jon Ralph believes a 7pm Grand Final on October 24 at the Gabba is overwhelmingly likely.

Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Watch every match of every round Live & On-Demand. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >

Round 15

AFL close in on GF host

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Commission president asks Phil Hogan to clarify his conduct in golfgate scandal – POLITICO


Phil Hogan and Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels in January | Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

Ursula von der Leyen ‘is in the process of gathering facts.’

By

Updated

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen asked Phil Hogan to give her additional information about his conduct in Ireland amid a scandal over breaking coronavirus restrictions, a spokesperson said Monday.

“The president has requested further clarifications because details are important and she wishes to have them,” Commission Spokesperson Dana Spinant told journalists.

“She is in the process of gathering facts,” the spokesperson said, adding that Hogan gave von der Leyen an initial account of his behavior on Sunday night — including his attendance at a rule-breaking golf society dinner last week.

Irish media reported late on Sunday that Hogan may have breached a local lockdown by traveling into Kildare county on August 17, when he was also stopped by police for using his cell phone while driving.

“[Von der Leyen] does expect commissioners to comply with the same rules as citizens do,” Spinant added.

Earlier on Monday, Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin told the RTÉ broadcaster “people are furious and they’re angry at what has happened.” According to RTÉ, Martin insisted that Hogan should still reassure people the lockdown was not broken in Kildare, but did not call for the commissioner to go.

“In terms of his role as a European commissioner, I think he’s been a good commissioner. I can’t say I don’t have confidence in him as a European commissioner, particularly in terms of the trade talks,” Martin said.

The prime minister and his deputy Leo Varadkar on Saturday called for Hogan to “consider his position” over the affair although Varadkar later appeared to soften his stance on Hogan’s future, stating the commissioner’s apology on Sunday “definitely helps.”





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