As the royal commission resumed hearings into younger people living in residential aged care, Commissioner Lynelle Briggs put to Dr Nicholas Hartland, from the Department of Health, that “the current system is at best a national embarrassment and at worst, a national disgrace.”

“Pipeline” sends young people into residential aged care

Australia has a “pipeline” sending younger people into residential aged care because there is a “huge gap” in checks and balances, said Peter Rozen QC, counsel assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

Before moving into residential aged care, a young person (which is defined as someone under the age of 65) must meet three criteria. They must be so frail they require personal care, and they must also be incapable of living in the community without support. 

The third criteria is moving a younger person into aged care must only be “a last resort” – there must be no other facility or care available that would meet their needs.

“Gaping hole” in process

After reviewing the documentation for a number of cases where a young person was sent into residential aged care, Mr Rozen asked Dr Hartland about the “gaping hole” in the process.

“I can’t even see a box that needs to be ticked in the forms… to say that there is no more appropriate service or facility,” Mr Rozen said.

“Why doesn’t the form draw the assessor’s attention to the need to consider this point?” he asked.

Dr Hartland admitted this was “a potential area for improvement”.

Shortfall in services, funding

Commissioner Briggs said Dr Hartland was passing the buck when she asked him what the Department is doing about the discrepancy between aged care and NDIA funding and services.

“Fundamentally they receive less (in aged care) than they would in the community (under the NDIS) and I suspect… the nature of those different services that they might receive were they living in the community.. would be more suited to their needs,” Commissioner Briggs observed.

Dr Hartland said this issue would be better addressed by the Department of Social Services and the NDIA.

Commissioner Briggs responded saying, “Young people with disabilities is a clear area where Social Services, NDIS, Department of Health, States and Territories and various other stakeholders need to be working together, rather than separately and doing buck passes.”

Human rights obligations not met

Commissioner Briggs also asked Dr Hartland how the Department reconciles the long-term placement of younger people in residential aged care with human rights obligations for people with disabilities to live independently in the community.

“It (putting them into residential aged care) is a reasonable way of responding to the person’s need,” Dr Hartland replied.

Commissioner Briggs followed with, “I put it to you, Dr Hartland, that the current system is at best a national embarrassment and at worst, a national disgrace.”

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