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.

Housing supply

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.

Rachel Siewert
Rachel Siewert

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.

Senator Linda Reynolds
Senator Linda Reynolds

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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3 Comments

  1. It’s all very well to recognise that younger people are not appropriately accommodated in residential aged care facilities. These facilities are designed, built, operated and funded by the Commonwealth to provide safe and secure care and support for frail elderly people. The Commonwealth Aged Care Act specifically focus on people aged over 65 years. Care and support for younger people with disabilities is a different issue entirely.

    The only reason younger people are forced into making this choice is simply because there is no other choice.

    Almost every community cross Australia has access to aged care services and facilities. This is because of the effort and funding of all Federal Governments since 1997 to ensure the needs of our older citizens are addressed.

    Those same communities have not had the same support over this time from State Governments responsible for support services to citizens aged less than 65 years. There are very few accommodation services for younger disabled people in regional and rural communities – even less in remote and small isolated communities. The cost to do so would be astronomical to start from scratch.

    Naturally families want to remain close to their loved ones forced into full time care. This is irrespective of age.

    If we take these younger people out of “nursing homes” where are they going to be accommodated? Which town will get something built and which towns will miss out? Who will pay for it?

    This has been a perennial problem for decades and while there is the will to do something, there isn’t the money.

    Initial reactions today might say use the $450,000 spent to upgrade a former PM’s office to build a new facility for younger disabled people in Adelaide. That money may go some way to meet construction costs but there’s still the ongoing operating expenses to cover.

    Economies of scale apply in “nursing homes” with around 85 residents being the average capacity in each facility. This is not likely to be achieved in those same communities for people with a disablity. So it means dislocating this group far from their families to achieve those same economies of scale.

    Find the solution to this quandary and the world will be a better place for many. Until then, it’s rocks and hard places.

  2. I agree with that comment about the misuse of taxpayer money, $450,000 used to upgrade an office, could build two smaller homes for these younger disabled people! The other source of funds could come from the misuse of our tax by Politicians to pay for overnight accommodation, when in Canberra. Lets build a hostel for them when they visit Canberra, or just book them into one hotel, so they can’t misuse it by paying a family member. Politicians are no longer professional in their conduct, so they do not deserve the perks given them. Let’s use those funds for those who need it.

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