Progress has been made on the push to end the phenomenon of younger persons living in residential aged care facilities (RACFs) with 35 younger persons living with disability relocated from residential aged care to more appropriate accommodation, from October-December 2021.
The total number of persons aged 65 and under living in a RACF in Australia now sits at 3435.
This progress is the result of a joint effort from the departments of health, social services and NDIS to realise the Younger People in Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC) Strategy 2020–25, which sets out to eliminate the phenomenon of premature entry to RACFs through the following targets:
- no people under the age of 65 entering a RACF by 2022
- no people under the age of 45 living in a RACF by 2022
- no people under the age of 65 living in a RACF by 2025
The progress made in the strategy, which has seen a 20.8 per cent reduction in overall numbers of younger persons living in RACFs during 2021, is not without tragedy.
Sadly, 71 per cent (562) of the YPIRAC who exited in 2021, did so because they died; 135 passed away in the last quarter, alone.
However, unlike the conduct uncovered by Aged Care News in February, in this reporting period the department has avoided combining these deaths with the figures of those who have exited alive, and have issued a fact sheet, which breaks down – clearly and factually -the reasons for exiting during 2021.
The report shows that younger persons with disabilities, living in aged care, have a variety of health conditions, such as endocrine disorders (32 per cent), nervous system disorders (33 per cent), circulatory system disorders (38 per cent), increasing their likelihood of premature death.
However, most prevalent in the YPIRAC population are mental health and behavioural disorders, which affect a whopping 64 per cent of the cohort.
Whilst mental health conditions are often a key contributing factor to premature admission to residential aged care, the isolating, demoralising conditions within the facilities only worsen the severity of these conditions, as documented in this Aged Care News article.
There is also evidence that YPIRAC have, historically, been driven to suicide by the inappropriate conditions in RACFs, though no data is available from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to indicate whether any of the recent deaths are due to this cause.
New supports have recently been announced by Senator Linda Reynolds, minister for the NDIS, with ‘Supported Independent Living Improvements’ to strengthen the capability of persons with disabilities to live independently or at home with family.
The improvements include:
- Simplifying claiming processes – introducing a simplified weekly claiming process that would make it easier for participants to negotiate directly with providers about how their supports are delivered and reduce administrative burden.
- Transition approaches – introducing clear and transparent transition or step down processes for managing material changes to SIL support needs to allow a transition period to new levels of support.
- Unplanned exits payment – introducing a new SIL payment to providers for limited circumstances where a participant unexpectedly leaves shared accommodation.
“I have listened to participants and providers and, after extensive engagement with the disability sector, we have identified short and medium term improvements that will improve the home and living experience for participants and providers,” Reynolds said.
“These changes will reduce red tape, and remove a number of practical and administrative concerns participants and providers have raised, to ensure it’s easier for participants to access home and living supports.”
Reynold’s department is also working to enhance knowledge and accessibility of independent living options for persons with disabilities.
‘“The Morrison Government is committed to ensuring people with disability have the supports they need and the flexibility to choose where and how they want to live,” Reynolds said.
“These improvements to the SIL and ILO pathways will help participants pursue their home and living goals.”
It’s a step in the right direction, but according to Di Winkler, CEO of the Summer Foundation, more must be done to reduce waiting times for disability-friendly accommodation and to aid YPIRAC exits to be accelerated.
“We support the Minister seeking improvements to the consistency and timeliness of home and living decisions for participants… but it does not commit to making decisions on housing and supports within 10 days,” Winkler said.
Reducing waiting lists down to 10 days is the pillar of the Summer Foundation’s ‘Down to 10 days’ campaign, which launched in March.
“Currently people with disability are waiting a median of 150 days for decisions on funding for housing and support, often stuck in unsuitable housing, aged care or hospital while they wait,” Winkler said.
“From the collective experience of thousands of people with disability — and the 130 organisations that are part of the ‘Down to 10 days’ alliance — we know that slow decision making by the NDIA is a common, significant hurdle.
“We will continue to campaign and monitor wait times and outcomes until the Government and NDIA make real change and get faster, accurate decisions for Australians with disability.”
To sign the Summer Foundation’s petition to reduce waiting times for disability accommodation “Down to 10 Days”, follow this link.
And follow this link to read more about the Summer Foundation’s work to end younger people living in aged care, including some inspiring success stories of life beyond residential aged care for younger persons with disabilities.