Young in aged care a 'national disgrace'

A royal commission heard the NDIS was a way to address the issue of younger people in aged care.
A royal commission heard the NDIS was a way to address the issue of younger people in aged care.

An aged care royal commissioner says Australia's system of sticking younger people with disabilities in nursing homes is somewhere between an embarrassment and a disgrace.

The inquiry heard it will cost as much as $1 billion a year to support the 6000 younger people in residential aged care to live in the community, through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Commissioner Lynelle Briggs said the governments, the NDIS, health and social security departments and other stakeholders need to work together to fix the problem, rather than "doing buck passes".

"The current system is at best a national embarrassment and at worst a national disgrace," Ms Briggs said on Tuesday.

Federal health department official Nicholas Hartland said it was not for him to comment on whether it was a disgrace or embarrassment.

"But I wouldn't want to leave the commission with the impression that I thought or the Department of Health thought that nothing further could be done and we ought to just wash out hands of the matter," Dr Hartland said.

Senior social services department official Michael Lye admitted the federal government has failed to make inroads into fixing the problem of people under 65 with disabilities ending up in residential aged care facilities.

"We have made some attempts at trying to address the issue. But we have manifestly failed and that's evidenced in the number of people who still live in those settings," Mr Lye told the commission's Melbourne hearing.

"And I think we have a very important job to do with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme to correct that."

Mr Lye said the $244 million spent under a 2006-2011 COAG initiative was "a drop in the ocean" that failed to make a dent in the problem.

He said it was "chalk and cheese" compared to the amounts now being directed at the issue, despite there being no specific funding attached to a federal government action plan announced in March.

"I think to quantify like for like, that would look like probably around a billion dollars per annum - $700 million to $1 billion targeted at this group."

Mr Lye said a conservative estimate of the cost through the NDIS of supporting younger people currently in residential aged care to live in the community was in the order of $700-800 million a year.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Rozen QC said government departments had managed to work together to achieve other significant policy objectives.

"We can probably cite numerous examples but one that comes to mind over the last few years in Australia has been the stopping of boats of would-be refugees coming to Australia," Mr Rozen said.

Mr Lye said the NDIS was a good example of cooperation and represented a comprehensive way of addressing the issue of younger people in aged care.

Australian Associated Press