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Younger Australians in aged care hope housing commitment means real change

“My sense of place in the world was gone…”

This is the quote from a younger Australian on entering aged care that Minister for Social Services Paul Fletcher read out in his keynote address to the Summer Foundation/Youngcare Get Building SDA Conference.

There, he committed to supporting the often-forgotten group to move into more appropriate housing by 2022.

“It is unacceptable that nearly 6,000 younger people – almost 200 under the age of 45 – live in residential age care facilities when many of them should not need to,” Fletcher said.

While he noted that the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has a term of reference to look at younger people with disability, he added the government is determined to start work now and “to set out a clear direction for the future”.

“To those with disability aged 45 and under who are living in residential aged care today and wish to get out – I say that we will commit to get that done by the end of 2022,” Fletcher said. “Our commitment is that if you wish to leave, you will have alternative, age-appropriate housing and supports by 2022 at the latest.”

He also made a similar commitment, albeit delayed by a further three years, to those between the ages of 46 and 65 but assured those in that age group they would not be ignored between now and 2025.

Young People In Nursing Homes National Alliance welcomed the plan but were disappointed by the omission of a funding promise.

National director Dr Bronwyn Morkham said that while the plan mostly consolidated existing initiatives, there was significant scope for it to drive change.

“The numbers of young people in nursing homes has remained largely constant at around 6,000 for the past decade and the introduction of the NDIS, which everyone thought would be a game-changer, has made little difference to the numbers overall,” Morkham said.

She added the group was disappointed there was no specific funding to support the initiatives in the plan.

“The Alliance has campaigned for some time for the NDIS to fund the full support needs of its participants living in aged care rather than the scheme relying on standard aged care funding to meet the sometimes very complex needs of younger people.

“Aged care funding levels were never meant to cater to the often higher needs of younger people with disability, and the initial refusal of the NDIS to meet the gap between aged care funding and the real needs of the person was always a major problem.

“The fact that this action plan signals a change in funding policy is a very positive feature, and many younger residents and their families will be relieved that they can have their NDIS plans reviewed to address this gap at last.”

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