More can be done to ensure the aged care system meets its responsibility for older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness, according to new research backed by providers in the housing, homelessness and aged care sectors.
The Australian Association of Gerontology has released three papers this week developed with and endorsed by experts and professionals from the housing, homelessness and aged care sectors about older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The research highlights the rapid increase in older women experiencing and at risk of homelessness and found that the implementation of aged care service information, assessment and delivery for this group was not meeting the intent of the aged care legislation.
For example, providing aged care service in the home was not possible for many people living in precarious housing while residential care providers reported it was not financially viable to provide tailored support for people who have experienced homelessness.
It also found issues in the assessment and referral of people to and from homelessness and housing services and aged care, other social services, disability and health services.
The papers include 23 recommendations in five key areas to improve services for older people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, which Australian Association of Gerontology president Associate Professor Stirling said were a roadmap for providing solutions to older women’s homelessness.
The evidence shows there needs to be more appropriate services developed for older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness and better integration between the different systems, Associate Professor Stirling said.
“Older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness need to be identified earlier and referred to services capable of meeting their individual needs,” she said.
Minister for Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt said he was “keenly aware of the plight of the increasing number of older women at risk of or experiencing homelessness and am pleased at the work being done to highlight the issue.”
He said the government assisted these vulnerable people through the viability supplement expansion component and the Homeless supplement.
“The Government also provides funding to support older people who are homeless or are at risk of homelessness, under the Assistance with Care and Housing (ACH) sub-program of the Commonwealth Home Support Program, as well as broader initiatives addressing seniors with diverse needs,” he said.
However the research found that many locations are without an ACH service provider and the majority ACH providers are not specialised in providing homelessness and housing services.
The recommendations target the five following key areas :
- A fundamental need for social and institutional change to address the lack of affordable, appropriate and secure housing supply, as well as to address the lower socio-economic status of women compared to men.
- Changes to ensure that the aged care system can meet its legislated responsibility for meeting the needs of older people experiencing, or at risk of, homelessness.
- The integration of aged care, homelessness, health, social service and disability systems.
- Prioritisation of early detection and intervention.
- Expansion and further development of services that are appropriate for the age, gender, and needs of older women who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
One of the papers outlines a range of things for practitioners and service providers to consider when working with people older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness and is targeted at those not currently experienced or specialists in providing services to this group.
It recommends practitioners stop and reflect on their own potential prejudices and biases, be sensitive to homelessness being a gendered issue, and think about the language they used when talking with older women experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
The release of the research coincides with Homelessness Week, which runs from 6 – 12 August, and the National Homelessness Conference, which took place in Melbourne earlier this week.
The papers, which are available here, have been endorsed by 17 organisations across the housing, homelessness and aged care sector.
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