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Senate tackles issue of young people in aged care

The Liberal Senator who has initiated a Senate inquiry into the issue of young people with disabilities living in aged care says she hopes it will give younger people and their families a voice.

Linda Reynolds said the issue of young people in aged care had “struck a chord” and she would like to see the inquiry deliver a strong report focused on “innovative and more flexible arrangements” for this group, as well as individualised support.

“Young people with disabilities have very different needs and requirements and I’d like to see a report that canvasses the broad spectrum of requirements,” Senator Reynolds told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The wide-ranging inquiry conducted by the Community Affairs References Committee will examine the estimated number of young people with a severe disability in the aged care system, and the support pathways and alternative systems of care available.

The impact of the National Disability Insurance Scheme on this group and the options and consequences of “de-institutionalisation” will also be investigated, according to the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Senator Reynolds said the timing was right to re-examine the issues alongside the planned roll out of the NDIS.

Sen Reynolds (2)

West Australian Senator Linda Reynolds

She said the inquiry’s report, which is due midyear, will make specific recommendations to COAG and to the Joint Standing Committee on the NDIS, which is reviewing the implementation of the NDIS.

“While the NDIS is not building houses or alternative accommodation arrangements, it will play a very important part in partnering with other organisations, federally but also through the states, so it’s the perfect time to make recommendations given where the NDIS is up to,” Senator Reynolds said.

She said the inquiry was also not just focused on the 6,000 people under 65 who are living in Australia’s aged care facilities but also the hundreds of thousands of younger Australians with a disability who have inadequate care for their needs.

“I am very confident both through written submissions and oral submissions that we will have some very provocative, thought-provoking and very substantive evidence,” she said.

New focus welcomed

Advocates for young people in aged care have welcomed the national inquiry investigating more appropriate alternatives to aged care.

The CEO of the Summer Foundation Dr Di Winkler said the government inquiry was timely and represented the first dedicated inquiry into the issue.

While important progress has been made over the past decade, she said solving the issue required systemic change.

“There needs to be more of a whole-of-government response that includes aged care, health, disability and housing because one of the difficulties with the issue of younger people in aged care is that it cuts across all of those sectors that tend to work in silos,” Dr Winkler told Australian Ageing Agenda.

Dr Di Winkler, Summer Foundation

Dr Di Winkler, Summer Foundation

And while the NDIS was part of the solution, she said it alone could not solve the issues facing young people with complex needs.

In particular, Dr Winkler said she would like to see action in three areas – improved awareness among people under 65 in aged care about their eligibility for the NDIS, prevention of new admissions to aged care through better pathways and more affordable and accessible housing.

She said aged care facilities were not resourced to support the psychosocial and specific care needs of younger people with a severe disability such as access to slow stream rehabilitation services.

Director of the Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance Dr Bronwyn Morkham said the alliance was pleased to see a renewed focus on the issue of young people in aged care as it had been less prominent since the conclusion of COAG’s five-year Younger People in Residential Aged Care Initiative in 2011.

“We are particularly pleased the inquiry will examine the key roles of the health, aged care and housing systems in developing cross sector pathways for this important group of people as the issue is not simply a disability issue,” Dr Morkham said.

Submissions invited

Submissions are invited by 6 February 2015. However, the committee has agreed to continue accepting submissions past this date.

The Summer Foundation is hosting workshops to help guide young people and their families through the process of making a submission to the inquiry and have also created a toolkit.

Further information on workshop dates and locations can be found at the Summer Foundation website.

Read the full terms of reference and make a submission to the inquiry at the committee’s website.

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