Thursday marked International Day of People with Disability. A time to celebrate the abilities of the many Australians living with a wide variety of disabilities but also a time to shine the spotlight on the issues facing people with a disability.
One issue is young people with a disability having to live in aged care facilities. Aged care is no place for young people, or for some older people with disabilities. Compass Housing was recently able to help a man, who experienced a severe stroke three years ago, to move into one of our new five-bedroom specialist disability accommodation group homes on the Central Coast.
There are still almost 5,000 people under 65 and 130 aged under 45 living in residential aged care. The reality is almost all of those people have a disability.
Our new resident’s family said that staff at the aged care facility treated him well, but he was living with older people with dementia. He is now sleeping better, eating better and has his spark back.
Like other families, they thought aged care was their only option. Younger people with disabilities are often placed in aged care from hospital or other places because of a lack of awareness of existing housing options or consultation with housing providers.
But community housing providers and specialist disability accommodation providers have vacancies in properties.
The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has deemed this an urgent issue. Recommendations put to it include reviewing hospital discharge protocols, and the NDIA publishing an annual Specialist Disability Accommodation National Plan setting out priority locations. The Australian Government recently announced a strategy to help keep younger people with out of residential aged care. The strategy aims to have no one under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022. There is also funding for up to 40 system co-ordinators to directly help younger people who are living in or, at risk of, entering residential facilities.
The priority must be to help people to gain appropriate NDIS plans or access to NDIS support workers who can make their move to age appropriate accommodation happen. We need a central system for housing providers to be able to notify authorities about available housing.
People with a disability living in aged care and their family members need to know that there are more suitable and supportive housing options for them.
Lisa Tierney is the Group Chief Operating Officer at Compass Housing Services