Above (L2R): Rob from New Farm chats with a Care Connect LGBTI case manager, Ian.
By Yasmin Noone
The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) has issued the first ever set of community care packages, specifically for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) older adults.
The allocation, provided to Care Connect, includes a mix of more than 32 Community Aged Care (CACP), Extended Aged Care at Home (EACH) and Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia (EACHD) packages for LGBTI seniors from south-east Queensland.
News of the allocation has been met with a great deal of enthusiasm from Care Connect which had been working in partnership with the LGBTI peak body for Queensland, Healthy Communities, to lobby the government for LGBTI-specific funding for more than three years.
“We are absolutely delighted,” CEO of Care Connect, Paul Ostrowski, said.
“Getting to this point has involved a process that’s taken a number of years…[so] it’s impossible to overstate how excited we are about the packages.
“But, this is only the start of a journey. We also consider that the [delivery of the packages] comes with a high degree of responsibility to encourage the older LGBTI community to come forward to take up these packages.”
Mr Ostrowski said the organisation aims to win more LGBTI-specific care packages in the future and extend the program to other Queensland areas and states.
Culturally appropriate care packages are essential, he explained, because older LGBTI adults have specific care needs which are currently not being met under the generic DoHA care packages. They are a minority group with individual life experiences, little community support (outside LGBTI networks) and rarely any enduring family connections.
“We are talking about a group which, [generally], has been ostracised by their family and society. And providing care for [these older adults] in the past has been potentially problematic because individuals don’t want to come forward for help because of fear.
“…Our hope is that those who are at risk of living with unmet care needs can now feel comfortable accessing appropriate support services with the assurance of receiving care they need in a sensitive and appropriate manner.”
In order to deliver LGBTI-specific care, Care Connect has recruited case managers from within the LGBTI community and commenced sensitivity training throughout the organisation, starting with the entire executive team.
“While many staff feel very comfortable with the LGBTI community, our training is quite confrontational so that staff recognise the discrimination and degradation the community has faced over many years.”
Mr Ostrowski said that now that the packages have been allocated, the next step is to concentrate on encouraging older people from the LGBTI community to put their hand up and accept the culturally appropriate care on offer.
To do so, the organisation will invest in resources and coordinate outreach work to let seniors know that these packages are available.
“…The key difference with these packages is also that [staff] will go forward carrying the message that with our organisation, LGBTI people can come forward [and ask for care], feeling confident that they won’t be judged.”
Tailoring for target groups
According to a DoHA spokesperson, the Aged Care Planning and Advisory Committees (ACPACS) convened in each state and territory can specify special needs in their community.
ACPACS can encourage applications from services able to focus on the provision of care for people for target groups including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities, people from non-English speaking (culturally and linguistically diverse) backgrounds, and/or people from lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) communities.
Providers are also able to nominate a target group as part of their ACAR application.
Mr Ostrowski also said that should other community care providers be interested in rolling out similar LGBTI packages, Care Connect would be only to happy to offer advice and support.
“It’s all about diversity at the end of the day," Mr Ostrowski said.
"We do have similar programs in disability services and transitional care where we have found a cause with a specific need and championed it.
“I would regard all of the communities within the broader Australian community as equally important and what we have done here is to address a group that did not have support.
“The provision of these LGBTI-specific packages [mark] a move towards diversity and equity for all Australians.”
For more information about the packages, click here.