A study has cast doubt on whether the government’s targets on getting young people out of residential aged care can be met.

An analysis of aged care data finds that as of mid 2020 there had been a significant reduction in admissions over the last two years, but little progress in helping young people already in residential care return to the community

“Although it may be possible, it is difficult to be confident all targets will be achieved on time,” the researchers from the Summer Foundation and the Living with Disability Research Centre at La Trobe University conclude.

In 2019 the government announced targets aiming to have no one under 65 entering residential care by 2022 and no one under 45 living in aged care facilities by 2022. It also pledged that no one under 65 would remain in residential aged care beyond 2025.

However, as of June 2020 there were still 4,860 people under 65 living in residential aged care, where they experienced a poorer quality of life compared to people with similar disabilities in other settings, the paper published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues says.

Admissions halved

Drawing on data from the National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse, the study found young people entering care with admissions reduced each quarter and halved between 2018 and 2020.

However no progress was evident in younger people leaving residential care for better arrangements, the paper says.

The researchers say better NDIS funding plans and changes to aged care guidelines, as well as the supply of specialist disability accommodation may be contributing to the decrease in admissions.

On the other hand, people living in residential facilities may have become “lost is in the system”.

Living in RAC may itself act as a barrier to accessing alternative living arrangements, suh that once someone enters RAC they become ‘lost’ inside the system.

Young people in residential aged care: Is Australia on track to meet its targets?

“Living in RAC may itself act as a barrier to accessing alternative living arrangements, such that once someone enters RAC they become ‘lost’ inside the system and are unlikely to ever leave,” the paper says.

Several other factors have impeded progress. The paper says aspects of the NDIS remain under development, and the move to a market-based system may have disadvantaged some people.

The COVID-19 pandemic may also have disrupted progress towards the targets.

The paper says that reaching the national targets will be a “landmark accomplishment” and  keeping track of progress, identifying obstacles and being flexible with targets may be the key to doing this.

Systems for addressing the sudden acquisition of serious disability, such as brain injury or stroke,  as well as better supports for people with disability who lose an informal family carer through death or illness, also need to be developed and refined, the researchers say.

Government figures released in July showed a decrease in younger people living in permanent residential care, with 4,106 people under 65 and 105 under 45 in residential facilities.

Access the paper.

This story first ran on Community Care Review.

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