The federal and state governments would set up a joint taskforce to oversee the transition of all young people living in residential aged care into appropriate alternative accommodation by June 2018, under proposals put forward by a Senate inquiry.
The inquiry report tabled in parliament on Wednesday responds to longstanding calls for a coordinated approach to the issue, bringing together all levels of government and the portfolios of housing, health, aged care, disability and transport.
The joint taskforce would be responsible for facilitating integrated service pathways and the development of information packs outlining support, transition and placement options for young people with severe disabilities.
The Council of Australian Governments taskforce would also oversee a process of assigning an advocate to all young people and the expansion of the National Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program to include this cohort, said the committee. The report said:
“It is the committee’s view that the key worker program should be expanded to include all young people living in or at risk of living in aged care. The committee notes that the Commonwealth’s contribution to the now defunct Younger People with Disability in Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC) program—approximately $25 million per annum—could be used to fund this program.”
In the meantime, the committee said aged care accreditation standards should be amended to explicitly refer to the clinical outcomes and lifestyle needs of young people and additional funding be made available to facilities to ensure these standards could be met.
Assessment guidelines and tools for Aged Care Assessment Teams should also be considered to reduce the inappropriate placement of young people with severe disabilities into aged care. All placements for someone under 65 should be reviewed annually, the report said.
On the critical issue of boosting the supply of alternative housing, the report noted uncertainty over the role of the NDIS, the Commonwealth and the states in funding specialised disability accommodation.
“There have been a range of innovative housing solutions presented to the committee; however, without clarity around the funding mechanisms, it is uncertain how or if they will ever be built,” the report said.
The committee acknowledged that the Commonwealth and the states were currently seeking to broker a series of bilateral agreements in this area, but said a source of capital should be made available in the interim to ensure supply increased during this time.
The committee said young people with a disability should also have priority on public housing lists.
‘Time we moved quickly’
Australian Greens Senator and community affairs committee chair Rachel Siewert urged the government to strongly consider the committee’s 12 recommendations.
“It is time we moved to quickly close this window of disservice to young people living with disability, young people with disability deserve to have choice and control over their lives and choose where and how they live,” she said.
Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds, who initiated the probe, agreed it was time for strong and decisive leadership on the issue.
“The inquiry has brought to life the human consequences of a hopelessly complex federation whereby no one agency is responsible for these young Australians,” she said. “I was particularly pleased the committee recommended all young people who wish to, and are able to transition out of residential aged care to appropriate alternate accommodation by June 2018.”
Advocates welcome report
The Young People in Nursing Homes National Alliance congratulated the senate committee for its work and said the report’s recommendations were “practical and implementable”.
In particular, the alliance’s director Dr Bronwyn Morkham welcomed the recommendation for a national rehabilitation strategy including access to slow stream rehabilitation, which she said the alliance had been calling for over many years.
Youngcare CEO Samantha Kennerley said the inquiry’s recommendations must be implemented urgently. “We strongly support better advocacy, intensive case management including annual review, and wrap around services for young people in aged care.”
She said the creation of a national database of people under 65 who are living in aged care was also an important recommendation.
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