Royal Commission: Hearings Have Commenced In Melbourne

For every story the Commission hears this week, there are thousands more that will not be heard. Each of these has its individual nuances, a right for every person to have their voice heard. But at the same time, there are undeniable common themes that tie these stories together.

This morning we heard that throughout the Royal Commission into the Quality and Safety of Aged Care, to date 6022 submissions have been received from the public. Of these, 10% are in relation to young people with disabilities who are living in residential aged care.

On average, 42 young Australian’s enter residential aged care per week. That equates to 6 people per day, and 2000 people per year.

Over the course of the hearings, the Commissioner’s will hear messaging across key themes such as;

  • Inappropriate support for young people with disabilities
  • Staffing issues in relation to staff ratios
  • Functional decline in young people with disabilities not receiving appropriate care and rehabilitation
  • Inadequate funding resources for young people to seek alternate pathways.

Statistics show that 60% of exits from RAC were those who died. Only 10% of young people went to a place they could call their own, or back to their family.

With the age of residents in aged care being on average 82 years for men and 85 years for women, young people are often living in facilities with people two or three generations between them.

We were told at the beginning that it is not the aim of this hearing to discuss the level of care for younger people in aged care. Rather, the focus will be on the appropriateness of aged care for younger people in particular and how better solutions may be delivered.

Youngcare look forward to giving evidence to these facts on Friday, alongside Summer Foundation and Young People in Nursing Home’s Alliance, who can all attest that despite a decade of efforts, there is no decrease in the numbers of younger people in aged care. You can live stream the hearing from 9:30am on Friday 13th here.

“This week is an opportunity to cast a light who are accessing aged care services. This is a group of mostly unseen and lost Australians. They are hidden. They deserve better and this Royal Commission provides an opportunity to deliver better outcomes for them” – counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC said

Indicative of the current climate, the first witness James Nutt, was unable to attend the hearing on Monday due to his flight from Newcastle being unable to fit his electric wheelchair on the airplane.

In support of this, we heard from first witness, Ms Corcoran who blatantly stated her purpose of giving evidence to the commission.  “My main goal today is to get the f*** out of aged care”

Ms Corcoran, who was moved into aged care at 37 years of age, said of her time in aged care, “it was a nightmare, it’s my worst dream ever,”

“There are people like me, we are all humans and humans crave respect. We are all equal. I feel like I have lost that respect. I could be here with nothing on and I wouldn’t feel any different.”

Ms Roche, whose husband lived in RAC for 2 years in his 50’s said “he changed from a man who was able to do everything independently to a man who was cut down in the prime of his life.”

Michael was falling between the cracks in funding, as the rollout of the NDIS began and they didn’t have an answer for that.

Ms Dodds, who spoke on behalf of her late husband stated “I have always been passionate about standing up for people who don’t have a voice and creating awareness and hopefully creating change from that awareness.”

“I have mixed feelings about giving evidence today. I am quite nervous but ultimately I wanted to stand up and give Tony a voice when he had none. Towards the end of his life I felt that he wasn’t able to advocate for himself.”

Finally, evidence was heard from Dr. Hartland, of the Commonwealth Department of Health who said, “for as long as I’ve had contact with the issue, it’s been an impractical problem in aged care.”

Dr. Hartland conceded that Department of Health has a lack of knowledge in the capacity of the SDA market, a lack of awareness on goals and aspirations of YPIRAC, and what would need to be done to support them.

According the Aged Care Act, a younger person with disabilities is only supposed to consider residential aged care as an option when “there are no other care facilities or care services more appropriate to meet the person’s needs,”

“We don’t seem to have a process to ensure that aged care is a last resort for younger people,” counsel assisting Peter Rozen QC said. “I can’t even see a box that needs to be ticked in the forms you provided to us to say that there is no more appropriate service or facility. “Isn’t that a gaping hole?”

The Australian Human Rights Commission also argues there is no place for young people in aged care in Australia. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Ben Gauntlett said young people with complex care needs have “fallen into the cracks” in the system.

“From a human rights perspective, no person being discharged from hospital or having a disability should be living in aged care whatsoever.”

Further to this, Deputy Secretary in the Disability and Carers unit at the Department of Social Services, Michael Lye was asked to do some ‘homework to follow up with the relevant States and Territories to evaluate the current condition and experiences of the people who participated in the first Young People In Residential Aged Care (YPIRAC) initiative in which 250 people were moved out of aged care through the implementation of $250 million in funding.

Mr Rozen inquired whether that the simplistic maths essentially showed $1 million was spent per person to move them out of aged care.

Mr Lye responded, “Someone wiser than me will tell me that there’s a reason why that maths is too simplistic, but I think that your point about a lot of money spent, $240 odd million dollar for essentially 250 plus, 244 people either diverted or taken out of aged care.”

Hearings take a break today and return on Friday, 13th at 10am. Live stream it here

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