The Aged Care Royal Commission is an opportunity to permanently eliminate the need for young people to enter residential aged care
10 September 2019 at 8:45 am
Ahead of giving evidence at the Aged Care Royal Commission hearings in Melbourne this week, Luke Bo’sher outlines his key arguments around why young people end up in aged care and what can be done to stop it happening.
The royal commission has identified young people interacting with the aged care system as a priority group for its inquiry. Newly-published research published by the Summer Foundation found that across Australia there were 6,048 people aged under 65 living in permanent residential aged care (RAC) at the end of June 2018.
Young People in Residential Aged Care (2017-2018) – A Snapshot also found that approximately 50 young Australians enter RAC each week, with 250 Australians aged 50 or under entering each year.
Of the 1,853 young people who left permanent aged care in the 2017-2018 financial year, approximately one in 10 (10.7 per cent) returned to family or home, while more than half (56.5 per cent) died while living in RAC.
Most young people living in RAC have a disability and so should be eligible to be National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants, yet only two out of three (67.7 per cent) were active NDIS participants.
It is important that the royal commission hears these stories, and acts to recommend the changes that will eliminate the need for young people to enter RAC.
The Summer Foundation has made a submission to the royal commission and I will appear at this week’s hearing in Melbourne, which will focus exclusively on young people in aged care.
The fact that aged care is not the right place for young people is well established.
In 2008 the Commonwealth, states and territories agreed on a set of guiding principles to resolve the issue of young people living in aged care. It is now more than 10 years since the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) acknowledged that residential aged care services are designed to meet the needs of frail older people and are not orientated to provide for the needs of younger people.
COAG stated that younger people with disability, living in residential aged care or who are at risk of entering RAC, should have access to housing and support services that are appropriate to their needs.
Earlier this year, the federal government took a significant step towards ending the issue of younger people being forced into RAC, with the release of its Younger People in Residential Aged Care Action Plan.
The plan commits the government to specific time targets to support young people in RAC to find alternative accommodation and be able to move out, and to halve the number of younger people being admitted to RAC by 2025.
It also includes a range of policy and processes to reduce the number of younger people with complex needs being admitted into RAC because of system failures in the NDIS, and in the health and aged care portfolios.
Our submission to the royal commission clearly defines the unacceptable outcomes that many younger people experience – through the stories of young people with disability who live (or have lived) in RAC and their families.
Our submission looks closely at the lives of young people in aged care, how quickly they enter and leave, key characteristics of their lives before aged care, and their progress into the NDIS and access to NDIS supports.
A primary source of data was customised reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare as summarised and analysed in the Summer Foundation’s Snapshot.
The submission identifies the key policy and systemic changes needed to stop young people being forced into aged care. These include:
- improving access to the NDIS for young people in RAC;
- resolving gaps in the interface between the NDIS and the health system that lead to young people being admitted to aged care;
- building the capacity of health services to support people with disability to leave hospital well and avoid aged care;
- stimulating the supply of accessible housing with appropriate support;
- increasing transition housing options to prevent admission to aged care; and
- separating the aged care system and the NDIS.
These recommendations are designed to address systemic failures and create a future where young people with disabilities can live in the community with suitable and high-quality housing and support.
About the author: Luke Bo’sher is the CEO of the Summer Foundation, an organisation that exists to resolve the issue of younger people being forced to live in aged care.