On Our Agenda: Young People in Aged Care

By Sharon Smith
Thursday, 09 July, 2015

The Senate report into residental care arrangements for young people with severe disabilities was released last month with the ultimate outcome of founding a ‘joint taskforce’ for young people living in aged care.
The taskforce’s duty will be to:

  • facilitate the development and implementation of integrated service pathways involving a range of portfolios at a state and federal level including housing, health, aged care, disability, and transport; and

  • facilitate the collation and development of information packs outlining support, transition and placement options for young people.

What does this mean? To be honest, it means a lot of recording, monitoring and ultimately: red tape.
At present, young Australians under the age of 65 currently occupy 5% of residential aged care facility (RACF) beds. This is primarily because the current disability system cannot provide appropriate supports and services for these young people.
Leading Age Services (LASA) says that while it is not ideal, care providers are doing the best they can - and doing a good job of it. While the Inquiry was a good idea for an ignored issue, amendments to the current arrangements only increase red tape and make carers’ jobs harder.
“To suggest changing the aged care accreditation standards as a practical, short term solution is ill-conceived and completely at odds with the more pressing matter of finding alternate accommodation solutions for people with severe disabilities.” says LASA CEO Patrick Reid.
“To optimise the quality of life of the younger person and to provide the right socialisation, it is not necessarily ideal to mix younger people with an older population in which the majority have some level of cognitive impairment. The care delivery is a completely different model.”
People With Disabilities Australia (PWDA) are working on a formal response to the Inquiry including recommendations to effectively respond to the concerns raised among the disability community. However prior to the Inquiry, PWDA released this statement on the issue.
It is important... to remember that the issue of the availability of supports and accessible housing is a government responsibility and a human rights issue. The fact that institutions are inappropriate contexts for people with disability is well established: it diminishes their opportunities for the exercise of autonomy and their participation, both social and economic, in their community.
PWDA is also committed to the principle of ‘ageing in place,’ primarily because the majority of the needs that people who acquire disability as they age should ideally be resolved through accessible housing and adequate in-home supports. Ageing in place is also an important principle for PWDA, because in some cases the cost of providing supports and accommodation to people with disability becomes an excuse for creating new, disability-specific facilities, some under the aged care system.
Similar to non-specialist aged care facilities, these institutions may also be used to house young people with disability when supports and accommodation are lacking. In our understanding, these become excuses to avoid addressing the key issues: accessible housing and adequate supports. It is particularly important as a principle through the transition to the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
From one end of the spectrum to the other, the Inquiry has revealed that the people responsible for the care are not happy with the current arrangement - or the proposed actions.
We would certainly like to see more attention on getting this right.
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