Younger people with disability are still living in residential aged care facilities as updates reveal key targets to move them into community settings with National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support have not been met.
In November 2019, Scott Morrison’s Coalition Government responded to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s interim report, Neglect, by announcing three targets as part of the Younger people in residential aged care (YPIRAC) strategy:
- No people under the age of 65 entering residential aged care by 2022
- No people under the age of 45 living in residential aged care by 2022
- No people under the age of 65 living in residential aged care by 2025
The latest report reveals that as of 30 June, there are still 2,934 younger people living in nursing homes.
While this is a 24.7 percent decrease from the same time last year, the latest figure includes 99 people under 65 who were admitted to aged care facilities over the preceding three-month period.
The number of people aged under 45 living in aged care has also dropped, going down 32 percent to a total of 68 people, but the number has not declined enough to reach the desired target of zero by the end of the year.
Summer Foundation Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Founder, Dr Di Winkler, says the falling numbers are sadly not reflective of positive outcomes.
“Unfortunately, the Federal Government has failed to make significant positive progress on changing the systems that force young people to enter residential aged care and leave them there,” says Dr Winkler.
“The number of YPIRAC is falling, but in most cases, it is not for the right reasons.
“The drop is mainly attributed to younger people dying in aged care or ‘ageing out’ when they turn 65.
“Natural attrition is not an acceptable way to achieve the YPIRAC targets, rather younger people need to be supported to live well in the community in a home that meets their needs and preferences.”
Dr Winkler says approximately 360 younger people with disability enter aged care every year, yet only 39 moved out of a nursing home into NDIS-funded Specialist Disability Accommodation (SDA) in 2021.
The Summer Foundation says 652 younger people with disability are hoping to leave aged care facilities and move into SDA or supported accommodation, but more support is needed to provide viable options for others who should be moved but cannot access SDA.
“Aged care is no place for NDIS participants. Our research shows that their lives are characterised by boredom, loneliness and frustration,” says Dr Winkler.
A lack of NDIS funding and timely funding decisions also means many younger people are getting stuck in hospitals while waiting to learn where they can be discharged to.
“Most younger people enter aged care from the hospital,” explains Dr Winkler.
“As part of the current Federal YPIRAC Strategy, the aged care system has made it much harder for hospitals to discharge younger people to aged care.
“We thought that the NDIS would be forced to step up and provide timely housing and support, but instead of going to aged care, NDIS participants are getting stuck in hospital.
“Long stays in hospital can be more detrimental to the health and wellbeing of people with disability than admission to aged care.”
Dr Winkler says the Government, National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and health sectors have to work together to create positive outcomes for NDIS participants, as well as the five percent of younger people living in aged care who are not eligible for the NDIS.
She believes that it is still possible for the Government to achieve the 2025 target of no people under 65 living in aged care, but this will require faster housing decision-making for NDIS participants in hospitals, in particular, to keep them out of unsuitable accommodation.