Focusing on Young People in Aged Care
24 February 2015 at 10:04 am
With the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there must be an established framework that focuses on housing options for young people living in aged care that are currently falling through the cracks, writes Greens Senator Senator Rachel Siewert.
The NDIS, despite its teething problems, holds much promise for people with disability in Australia, enabling independence, choice and control as never before, a factor critical to achieving this is access to housing for people with disability.
There is a demographic sadly existing in Australia, that unless we address will undermine the promise of the NDIS. They are young people with disability, living in residential care, mostly aged care. All you need to fall into this group is to be under 65, living with disability, and in need of appropriate housing to accommodate your specific needs.
Some of this group have experienced a single incident that shifted them from a life that does not require support from government and community service organisations, to high support needs.
This group struggle with a lack of affordable accommodation options including independent accommodation and supported accommodation, lack of rehab support to enable people to move out of residential care, isolation, lack of control of decision making, lack of joined up services and a lack of funding.
Across Australia they have fallen into the bureaucratic gap between undefined support from Health Departments, Disability agencies, Housing Departments and NGOs.
I am chairing an inquiry into the plight of this group that is occurring right now; the first hearing took place this week in Perth and continued yesterday in Sydney.
The hearing in Perth detailed disturbing personal accounts of young people living in aged care, it is clear this is not the right circumstance for a young person with disability, to be living alongside much older residents sometimes with dementia with whom they have nothing in common.
The only reason they are there is because there is not an appropriate alternative.
People living in aged care are there for reasons different to people with disability – the services and support are focussed of course on the frail aged.
The services provided are not focused on rehabilitation – so on top of the mental health impacts that come with young people being surrounded by older and sicker residents – there is not proper infrastructure in place to provide adequate care and rehabilitation.
People were also deeply concerned about the lack of independence and having little control over their personal lives even down to what and when they eat.
According to the Disability Services Commission at the inquiry this week – 49 people are considered by the DSC to be inappropriately placed in aged care in Western Australia. The DSC admitted that they had not personally asked everyone in WA with disability in institutionalised care how they felt about their living arrangements.
There is dispute in WA about the true figures. It is evident we seem to be working in the dark on how many people with disability are living in inappropriate accommodation in the state and around the country.
With the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, there must be an established framework that focuses on housing options for this group that are falling through the cracks.
More can be done to ensure we work in a more coordinated way, creating more community based accommodation options that provides innovative solutions. Many young people will become eligible for NDIS once funding fully rolls out, but lack of affordable housing will become a major hindrance.
We do not want anyone languishing in aged and other residential care homes.
The inquiry will hopefully reveal evidence that will provide solutions for this group that deserve far better.
About the author: Senator Rachel Siewert is the Greens spokesperson on Ageing and Disability Services and Chair of the Community Affairs References Committee which is currently holding an inquiry into young people in residential care in Australia.